Paula Gushiken is a perfect example of the innovative entrepreneur who has the outlook and ability to turn challenges into opportunities. Gushiken is the energetic owner of Maui Vehicle Storage – a business that has filled an unusual niche and leveled up.
The company primarily serves part-time residents – the so-called “snowbirds” who typically retreat to Maui from the continent during the winter season. Although snowbirds rent out their condos when they are away, condominium regulations prohibit them from leaving their vehicles unattended on the property for long periods of time.
Meeting that need, Maui Vehicle Storage provides its clients with a place to safely store their vehicles until they return to Maui.
It’s a win-win. Gushiken’s service gives her customers peace of mind knowing their vehicles are secure – and it allows her to operate a successful business with six other family members, including her three adult children. Today, the company stores up to 500 vehicles on 2 acres of leased land in Kahului and continues to grow.
Starting with Aloha
Gushiken’s business had an interesting start. She didn’t have the luxury of developing a full-fledged business plan before launching Maui Vehicle Storage. It was her genuine concern for a friend – and an unwavering confidence in her abilities – that started the business.
Originally named the Car Barn, the company’s first owner was moving to the continent and sold the business to his neighbor for $400,000. The neighbor had big dreams, acquiring the business so that he could leave his job to care for his wife, who had suffered a debilitating stroke.
The ownership transfer included 150 vehicles, which were moved to the new owner’s Haʻikū property. However, because his property was zoned as agricultural land, he learned that he would be fined $11,000 a day until he removed the cars.
He reached out to Gushiken for help.
At the time, she was busy running Puʻunēnē-based Diversified Crane Services Maui, which she also owns and operates. However, she and her daughters agreed to take the business off his hands and offered to pay him in installments to alleviate his financial stress.
Welcome Support from OHA
Gushiken had set the law of reciprocity in motion, and soon found help for her unplanned, newly acquired business. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ (OHA) Mālama Loans program provided both low-cost financing and no-cost technical assistance to help ensure their success.
“We’re glad to be a partner with Maui Vehicle Storage,” said OHA Loan Processor Robert Crowell. He explained that after loan applicants participate in the coaching sessions, their loan request is presented to a quorum of the OHA Mālama Loans board of directors for approval, a one- or two-day process.
“OHA’s technical assistance provider was extremely knowledgeable and very well connected to assist with all our business needs. They are the true meaning of the word aloha in our community,” Gushiken said. I am so fortunate they were able to help us!”
Turning the Pandemic Crisis into an Opportunity
In retrospect, Gushiken’s acquisition of the business in November 2019 could not have occurred at a worse time. Four months later, the world locked down in response to the global pandemic. But instead of despairing, Gushiken looked for new business opportunities.
“I reached out to the car rental companies, Budget, Avis and others, and asked if I could store their vehicles for them,” Gushiken said, noting that, with tourism at a standstill, rental cars were not being used.
“Within two weeks, I received a call asking to store 500 vehicles. And soon after that, I received a request to store another 500 cars.”
She made some quick calls to lease more space, and the property owners obliged. At the pandemic’s peak, she was storing an additional 1,500 vehicles – in addition to the vehicles of her regular customers.
Road Tests for Driver’s License
Always open to opportunities to grow her business, Gushiken recently saw another niche that needed to be filled when her niece could not meet the strict requirements of the county’s Motor Vehicle and Licensing Division (DMV) to complete her road test.
Learning that many people are unable to meet the requirements, Gushiken purchased a vehicle dedicated to road tests which she rents out soley for that purpose. She even helps clients get familiar with the car before they take their road test.
Taking the idea a step further, Maui Vehicle Storage recently acquired a half-acre property strategically located adjacent to Maui County’s DMV. Gushiken plans to expand the company’s capabilities for more vehicle road tests.
It’s just another testament to Gushiken’s creative problem-solving skills combined with her uncanny ability to not only identify needs, but fill them.