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BYUH alumna says she started a car rental business to help students and locals visit and appreciate places on Oahu and better their lives

Zully Davila wearing a lavender jacket and blue jeans stands besides cars parked on campus.

Zully Davila, a BYU–Hawaii alumna from Utah, said she started Mahalo Car Share to fill the need in the community for car rentals. Davila was saddened to hear of BYUH students who have never explored the island outside of Laie because, she explained, students can learn to appreciate the unique atmosphere Laie possesses by traveling just one hour away.

As a former BYUH student, Davila said she understands trying to do things last minute and wanted to provide opportunities for others to have positive experiences. “I feel like the people [in Laie] sometimes miss out on opportunities because they don’t have the resources to get to those opportunities.” For example, she said, although “a car may not seem life-changing,” it can help people get to their road test, job interview or doctor’s appointment.

Mahalo Car Share is a car rental business in Laie owned by Davila and her brother, Alex Davila, who currently lives in Utah. Zully Davila said they cater to BYUH students and members of the surrounding community. While BYUH students rent out their cars, she said Mahalo Car Share differs in that they offer daily and hourly pricing, are reliable and are self-serve.

A red four-door car parked in front of water with greenery behind it.
One of the cars Mahalo Car Share offers for rent.

In addition, she said, when a person rents from Mahalo Car Share, they are not only helping one family, they are helping five other employees’ families. She said no contact is necessary because when customers rent the car on their website, Mahalo Car Share gives them instructions on where and how to pick up the vehicle. In addition, if the car happens to break down, the company will send a customer service representative with a backup car as soon as possible.

Seeing a need and filling it

Mahalo Car Share’s mission statement states as the company helps the community by serving them as if they are family, and they provide “car rental services with kuleana (Hawaiian for responsibility).”

Zully Davila said Mahalo Car Share has not only benefited the Laie community by providing them with a way to take advantage of opportunities, but has also provided jobs. She said it can be hard to find employment in Laie so one of her main goals was to fill this need for a town she loves.

Alex Davila said they worked hard to gain the trust of the local community by creating jobs and showing they are dependable and there to serve. Zully Davila said she loves Mahalo Car Share because she knows it isn’t a selfish business. “It [Mahalo Car Share] serves its purpose all around. I am excited to see the future of it because I very much see it growing [to] hopefully provide jobs for more people here in the community.”

Tyrone Brown, a senior from Kahuku majoring in psychology and social work, said Mahalo Car Share helped him find love. Two years ago, he said he went on his first date with his now-girlfriend. “Without [Mahalo Car Share], I wouldn’t have gone on that first date.”

When his parents unexpectedly visited Hawaii, Brown said, Mahalo Car Share was a blessing because they could rent a car last minute. He said one of the ways Mahalo Car Share benefits the community is by not catering to the effects of tourism that would make the rental service more expensive.

Challenges of being a woman entrepreneur

Zully Davila said leaving her many previous jobs to focus on Mahalo Car Share was a huge step. “I went full-on, 100 percent into it. It’s been very hard ... but very rewarding.”

As a woman entrepreneur, she said, she is often not taken seriously in the business world–especially in the car industry. She said people speculate if she knows what she is doing because she is a woman.

Despite this, Zully Davila said, “I’ve been able to build great relationships with a lot of resources for products, cleaning supplies and maintenance.” She expressed gratitude for those who have helped her and is confident in her ability to run the business.

She said her brother doubles as her business partner and mentor. She said she is grateful for his expertise to help her navigate those areas she doesn’t yet know. “It’s hard, but if [I] don’t show up, who’s going to show up? [I] just have to do it. ... If [I] want something, [I] just have to do it.”

Zully Davila expressed how much the community’s support means to her because her business is local and she wants it to be long-term. She added she is grateful for those who have rented a car, given referrals or spread the word about Mahalo Car Share.

Symbolism behind their color choice: Purple

Zully Davila said the Mahalo Car Share company is represented by purple “not just because it’s girly and the business is owned by a woman” but because the color means victory, was Queen Lili‘uokalani’s favorite color and is one of the royal colors of Hawaii.

In addition, she said the color comes from an insight she and her brother learned while attending a workshop. “We learned purple is the highest color in the rainbow closest to heavens. It’s considered a very rich, heavenly color. That is where it resonates with us.”

She said the final reason they chose purple is the root of a taro plant is purple. She said baby taro plants are called ohas, and when there are many of them together, they are called ohana. “There is the symbolism. We want to treat our customers as if they were family.”

Zully Davila said customers can reserve a car through or on Facebook or Instagram @mahalocarshare.