Finding an unlikely spot in Hau’ula, Kaimi Horito, a junior majoring in Hawaiian studies from Utah, said his long-time ambition to open up his own barber shop in the community was only made possible because of God’s hand.
“I had to work hard, but none of this could have happened without the Lord putting this all together. He really made all of this happen and put all the pieces into place for me to have this barber shop.”
Horito said he enjoys seeing his clients walk out feeling confident. “I love being able to cut hair and have a barber shop because it gives people confidence. I love seeing people walk out of here with confidence because of a cut we gave them.”
Origins of his barber shop
Horito said he has been interested in cutting hair since high school. “When I was in high school in Utah, I started cutting hair. Then I came over to Laie for high school and started cutting hair even more.”
As a missionary in the California Los Angeles Mission, Horito said he cut a lot of hair as a missionary. Towards the end of his mission, he decided he would start a barber shop in Hawaii on this side of the island because he said there were no real barber shops.
“I got home from my mission, got to BYU-Hawaii and started planning it out. It wasn’t until April of this year that I sat down with a mentor, Robert Tietjen from the Entrepreneurship Program, and started getting serious.
“At first, I was going to do a truck, a mobile barber shop truck similar to a food truck. After planning and figuring things out, it was decided that it probably wasn’t the right direction to go in.”
After this idea did not go through, Horito said he began looking for a shop or a place to start his business. “The hard part was finding a place because there is hardly any commercial property around Laie, Hau’ula and Kahuku. I started looking around the Laie and Hauula shopping centers and nothing was open, and I felt like I was out of options.”
Horito said he kept looking for places nearby and took a look at shops next to the 7-11 in Hau’ula. He said he could not find the owner or anyone to talk to who knew anything about the place. Running out of options, Horito said he sat down next to the shop and said a prayer and asked the Lord for help.
“After I finished praying, I saw a man who was picking up trash. I felt prompted to go and talk to him. He said he knew who owned the building and told me I probably wouldn’t be able to use it. However, he told me he owned the building next door - which is now my barber shop.”
Setting up shop
After meeting and talking with the owner, Horito said he was able to work out a deal with him and later signed the papers to lease the building which he has been working since June, until his official opening in September.
“We got a lot of painting done, made a lot of signs, got some air conditioning and Wi-Fi setup. [We] did some minor construction and got a lot of equipment in the store including chairs, mirrors and shelves.”
Being happily surprised to see Horito’s shop after watching him cut hair in the Hales, Jhon Li, a senior from China majoring in communications, said, “It must be hard to be a student and juggle studying and life with a business. I think opening a barber shop like this, if he can handle it, is going to help him prepare well for the future and test [his] business.”
Horito said as the business opened, it started off small, but is continuing to grow. He said the shop was open the first month just two days a week, the second month for three days and he said they plan to be open Monday through Saturday in November.
According to Horito, the barber shop has two professionally licensed barbers. One of the barbers is originally from Laie while the other being from Chicago. He said most of his clients so far are from the community.
Student business owner
Horito explained, “As a student myself, I understand that it’s a little harder to get a cut here because it’s in Hau’ula and it’s cheaper to get a haircut from someone on campus. However, we have licensed professional barbers cut hair and you’re paying for the vibe. When you come to a barber shop you are paying for the experience and we have a good, chill vibe in our shop.”
Horito said he put in a lot of time and work trying to set up his business and get the word out. “The biggest thing I focused on was social media. I went heavy with social media advertising on Facebook and Instagram and had some professional videos and photos done.”
As well as a social media presence, Horito said he has also made signs and put them on the highway by his shop, made business cards and is hoping to get people talking by word of mouth.
A customer of Ka’imi Kuts, Koa Mo’o, a senior majoring in business from Utah, said, “I think it’s great that Kaimi started his own business. He’s talked about doing it and he made it happen, no matter what people said. I hope his barbershop does well and he finds success.”
Speaking of his future plans, Horito said, “Being in Hau’ula is great. I’ve definitely been able to connect with the community out here. I want to eventually have a shop in Kaneohe and keep growing this business.”