2020 has been a lot of things, hard and uncomfortable decisions, tragic losses and people grappling with what comes next. This Small Business Saturday, I’d like to highlight the issues facing small business about what this means to the decision makers, the customers, the employees and the future.
When looking at loss — from a business standpoint — I look to morals over money and passion over profits. I am looking at the loss of ideas, the loss of the entrepreneurial spirit, the loss of the small business trying to make a big impact.
Two years ago, I flew to my home turf of Hawaii. Working for Stream2Sea, the only line of mineral sunscreen and body care products on the planet to be tested and proven not to harm humans, fish and coral larvae, I asked to meet with an old classmate that I had not seen in 30+ years. A busy restaurant owner, he graciously agreed to meet. We sat down on the patio of one of his restaurants at 9:30pm after his dinner rush.
What a warm Hawaiian style greeting! We hugged and shook hands like no time had passed. He wanted to know all about what I had done in the years we had been apart and was full of praise for all the things I had accomplished and my overall health. He talked about Stream2Sea and told everyone to look it up and buy our products. He was gracious, full of kindness and praise, and he introduced me to patrons and employees as a friend.
His energy and passion were infectious. When I asked about what had occurred in his life, he was incredibly humble and downplayed what he had created and the movements that he had fostered. Instead he wanted to discuss Stream2Sea and ways he could contribute to our mission to save the ocean and the human race. He was well versed in studies pertaining to Hawaii’s sunscreen bans and chemical disruptors found in many sunscreens. He was curious and wanted more information about other chemicals that cause harm — many that were not on the labels of shampoo, soap, hand sanitizer and other body care products.
Ed Kenney is a disruptor for good, a connector of causes and a keeper of the Hawaiian culture. An accomplished restaurateur, his establishments have a mantra of “local first, organic wherever possible, with Aloha always.” This resonates to the very core of his being. Ed was a champion of farm-to-table before it was a movement with an enticing description. Ed started the Food Shed Community Kitchen as a food-based business incubator and is a member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Blue Ribbon Task Force.
As a board member for the Kokua Foundation, Ed is involved with the plastic problem on land and in the ocean, teaching kids to respect and love the land (aina in Hawaiian) and the 3 R’s of recycling as sung by his friend Jack Johnson (the Kokua Foundation is run by Jack’s wife, Kim). Ed sits on many other boards and organizations with similar goals of sustainability, culinary education and saving the environment of Hawaii and the planet. Ed also has a PBS show called Family Ingredients. All of the above AND Ed’s food is amazing – the last time I checked, he was a four-time James Beard semifinalist.
Ed is all of those things, but during our first meeting, his sole focus was learning more about me and Stream2Sea. He is passionate about a myriad of issues and eager to learn and learn and learn some more. And the kicker? I had another meeting the next morning and early is always best for me so it was a 6am meeting. Guess who was cooking breakfast at the Kaimuki Superette? Ed.
This week on Facebook, Ed posted that the Town Restaurant has closed permanently. Covid 19 and 2020 shared in the downfall of this iconic restaurant, but the larger implications are my real concern.
Ed works his ass off. He will recover and thankfully did not have to close all of his restaurants. He will likely build something bigger and better as the economy allows. And while I know the effect on him is greater than on me, I am saddened by the loss. Ed is trying to heal the earth by focusing on food, the environment and climate change through sustainable, local food practices. Margins in the restaurant industry are tight — it’s hard to turn a profit, stand true to his ideals, and pay employees a living wage.
I am looking forward to sitting down with Ed in the near future and filling him in on all the great things Stream2Sea has done since last we talked. I know he’ll be interested in the Palau Pledge and how Hawaii is planning to duplicate their ban on 12 different chemicals, and that Marshall Islands banned 28 chemicals and 10 preservatives.
We as a concerned consumers need to do better and stop letting the Ed Kenney’s of the world down. We need to vote for what we believe in — with our feet and wallets. We need to be willing to pay a little more to know that the supply chain is sustainable, we are healthier, and we are eating some of the best damn food on the planet.
Except for the food, the same holds true for all small businesses struggling to survive what may be the most challenging economy in the last 100 years. Hundreds of companies – including Stream2Sea – are struggling to meet goals that seemed easily attainable a year ago. We continue to hold true to our values, but we need the support of our customers and our peers to make it through these tough times.
Visit Ed Kenney’s other restaurants and support what you believe in.
Also if you are in Honolulu and need a Stream2Sea product Kaimuki Superette carries our line! @kaimukisuperette.
Mahina and Sun’s @mahinaandsuns.
Mud Hen Water @mudhenwater
Executive Vice President, Stream2Sea