In August I visited Central California for a business and had the privilege of meeting an extraordinary single mom entrepreneur, Kelly Edwards. A single mom of 6 years, Kelly has faced a great deal of adversity since her divorce in 2009. But this go-getter didn’t let anything stand in her way when it came to supporting her two young daughters. Kelly and her partner, Gordon started their hugely successful Kona coffee import business, Halekailana, in 2013 and haven’t looked back. Today she operates out of her Tiki Lounge/warehouse in Monterey, California.
Here is my interview with Kelly.
1. How old were your kids when you started your coffee company? Chantelle (Chanti) was 20 (now 23) and Bri 15 (almost 18) when I started the business. It’s a family company as they both help me when it comes to special events, festivals and large orders. They do, however, also have part-time outside jobs which I think is very important… it teaches them what employment outside the family business entails.
2. Can you describe what it was like going through the divorce?
Going through the divorce was one of the most difficult and stressful times in my life. It took me years to muster the courage to ask for the divorce. I was a stay-at-home-mom for almost the entire child-rearing years and was scared to death as to how I would support and take care of my children. During our divorce, as I am sure in any, emotions run hot and cold. One minute you both agree to work together in the best interests of the children and the next minute you find the obligations aren’t being met by the other party. I am usually a can-do kind of person but there were lots of days I was a stressed-out mess and felt such a sense of hopelessness.
Then, in 2010, my ex died. Despite the trauma of going through the divorce his loss was heartbreaking. Most of all, having to watch my girls go through the loss of their father at such young age was difficult. And if that wasn’t bad enough, at the time of his death, my ex was going through bankruptcy proceedings and he’d let his life insurance lapse early on in our divorce. Bottom line, there was nothing coming to the girls or me to help with day-today living expenses. It was all beyond anything I ever could have imagined. And just when you think it can’t get any worse, it did. The following year the tsunami hit Hawaii and our rental home over there was decimated. It literally floated out into the ocean.
3. What inspired you to start this company?
For me, I needed something I was passionate about and that I believed would make a difference. My business partner, (who’d also lost his home in the storm) had suffered. But the Kona coffee farmers were losing their livelihood. They were abandoning their farms, despite the fact that there were still coffee on the trees. It was a tragic turn of events. We decided to step in and help several farmers rejuvenate their land. After all Kona is considered to be among the top 3 coffees in the world.
We are helping American farmers. And trust me coffee farming in Hawaii is not for the faint at heart. These guys hand pick the berries on steep terrain of lava flow. It’s sharp, uneven and treacherous. I always joke that to work on a Kona coffee farm one must be part mountain goat.
Today these farmers yield bigger and better yields than ever before.
4. What has been the feedback on your product?
We receive great feedback on our products. I have pages of testimonials from happy customers which warms my heart to no end.
5. What advice would you give other single moms who are interested in starting their own business?
Just do it! Really. I know it is scary, and for me it was a huge leap of faith, but it is one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself.
6. Do you have any practical advice from mistakes you learned you could share with others who want to be entrepreneurs?
The best advise I can give is do your homework in advance. Don’t, however, aim, aim, aim and never pull the trigger. If you over analyze you can always find reasons why not to do something, just be prepared. Be flexible. There are so many things that will crop up in business that you didn’t expect, and you have to be able to look at those things (opportunities) individually and adjust accordingly.
7. What is your best work/life balance tip?
This too shall pass. No matter what hurdle you face nothing is so insurmountable that you can’t overcome it. And tomorrow is a new day so you get to start fresh every day! Enjoy time with family and friends and make time for yourself. It is so easy to work all the time but you will burn out – so try and find simple pleasures, even a bubble bath brings me great relaxation where I just shut everything out!
8. What’s your advice for finding and balancing a new relationship?
My first bit of advise. Don’t force it. It seems when you are trying too hard or looking too hard, you can’t see what is right in front of you.
9. Any products our readers should try?
Our coffee is a big hit, but so are our macadamia nuts. With the holidays coming up, they are great gift for the tough person on your list.
And for all your readers we are offering 15% off now through the end of the year – Just use promo code ZANE15 when you order on our website www.halekailana.com.