Kai Hudgins and Kailin Kim first met while sailing on the Hōkūleʻa. Not long afterwards they began their own voyage together. Seven years later they have three keiki and run a family-owned beekeeping business called Hoʻōla located in Kohala on Hawaiʻi Island.
Hoʻōla is one of the few Native Hawaiian beekeeping family businesses in Hawaiʻi. Their business includes bee removal and rescues while also producing and selling a variety of infused honey, oils, candles, and other health-related products. While Hudgins and Kim are the main beekeepers, their keiki are their little worker bees.
“All of our keiki are involved, my oldest has been coming with us to catch swarms since he was a toddler and now he’s at the point where he can do it himself,” Kim said.
Their children are all still very young, but their hiapo (oldest child) has already expressed his desire to take over the beekeeping business when he gets older. Kim said that his desire to work with the bees led to their ʻohana decision to homeschool their keiki and involve them in the business.
The name of their business holds deep value to the couple. The word Hoʻōla is translated to mean “to thrive.” For Hudgins and Kim, they understand Hoʻōla as the ability to thrive in their homeland of Hawaiʻi.
While many Native Hawaiians struggle to survive in Hawaiʻi due to the high cost of living, Hudgins and Kim’s ʻohana has been able to thrive thanks to their beekeeping business. Kim believes beekeeping has been a true blessing for their family that has allowed them to live the lives they always wanted.
“We’re not trying to do this just to get by or just to survive, we shouldn’t be ʻjust surviving’ in our homeland. We should be thriving,” says Kim. “That’s what Hoʻōla is to us, to really thrive here at home.”
Initially, they found it difficult to balance giving to the community while also making a livable profit. But by taking a step back and focusing on their priorities, they’ve been able to find the sweet spot where they can make a profit while also staying true to what matters most to them.
“We really try to prioritize what’s important to us,” says Kim. “The reason we started our business was to rescue bees and to help people; we’re not straying too far from that to chase the money or cater to tourists.”
Over the past seven years, Hoʻōla has faced many hardships – especially due to the instability of bees. Losing hives is common in this job and their ʻohana has had to work through it all together.
“You can have really high points and grow your apiary to where you have a whole lot of bees. Or you can have a crash and lose a lot of hives – and sometimes it’s out of your hands,” said Kim. “We’ve had to learn to work through these ups and downs together even in times when it’s super disheartening.”
Another obstacle they’ve had to overcome is the stigma behind beekeeping since the honey bees are not native to Hawaiʻi. However, their ʻohana is able to put an Indigenous spin on the way they handle and observe the bees.
“Even in non-Hawaiian things you can always bring an Indigenous perspective and make it you. Bees don’t have to be from here, but we can still do what our kūpuna did and kilo (observe),” Kim said.
For Hudgins and Kim, they see bees differently due to their own experiences on the Hōkūleʻa. To them, the bees are voyagers like themselves – and like our kūpuna. “The way they navigate to the sun and the way they act when swarming and leaving their home for a new place is kind of the reason our kūpuna voyaged from other islands,” said Kim.
Hudgins and Kim have also gained ʻike (knowledge) from the bees they work with.
“There are so many lessons to learn from the bees, but a key one is the ability to work together towards a common goal. That’s how we’re gonna push Hawaiʻi forward, build our lāhui, continue on, and hoʻōla,” said Kim.
Hoʻōla will be expanding their operations in the upcoming months with a new warehouse, and they hope this will allow them to further their vision of a Hawaiʻi, and a world, where our keiki and nalo meli (honey bees) have a safe, clean and healthy environment where they can thrive.
To learn more about Hoʻōla go to www.SaveHealThrive.com.