Paving their way to success

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Layla Dedrick has a passion for creating environments where people can thrive.

“Because of the weather and culture here in Hawaiʻi, ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ are not always clearly defined,” reflects Dedrick, owner of Bella Pietra Design, Pāhonua, Geobunga and Native Farms. “I want to help people create spaces in their homes and gardens that are both functional and beautiful.”

It was this passion for beautiful spaces inspired Dedrick and husband, Andrew, to open Bella Pietra Design in 2001. Bella Pietra Design features stone and tile products for indoor spaces. Their second business, Geobunga, opened in 2009 as an outgrowth of Bella Pietra Design, borne in part by Dedrick’s vision of indoor and outdoor spaces that seamlessly transition in both design and concept, and also as a response to the 2008 recession.

Selling exclusive stone products, Bella Pietra Design caters to designers, architects, developers, contractors and homeowners. When the recession hit, the Dedricks realized that they needed to diversify and saw a niche, a “puka” in the market that needed to be filled. They decided to take some of the products they were selling at Bella Pietra Design, rebrand them, and expand their inventory to increase their client base and revenues.

And so Geobunga was conceived, selling playful and affordable products that help people to create beautiful, livable outdoor spaces: stone pavers, decorative rocks, pebbles, pots, fountains, benches, bamboo accents and outdoor sculptures. This allowed the Dedricks to expand their clientele and serve renters as well as homeowners. For example, container gardens (multiple plants grown together in a beautiful ceramic pot) can easily be moved from one home to another. Says Dedrick, “Geobunga provides products to create an outdoor space you can actually live in. Our products help people make their outdoor spaces – whether an apartment lanai or a backyard – part of their living space so that it is not just an afterthought, but a place of respite.”

Today, Geobunga is a thriving business with two locations: the five-acre Native Farms nursery in Waimānalo, and an Urban Gardening Center in Kakaʻako. Of course, the road to success is paved with trials, and starting a new business in the midst of a recession was a huge risk. “Running a small business is tough,” mused Dedrick.

So in 2018 Dedrick reached out to OHA and applied for a Mālama Business Loan, specifically for the Native Farms side of the house. This enabled them to invest in equipment to grow their plants more efficiently. “As a Native Hawaiian business owner it feels good to have the financial backing of OHA,” remarked Dedrick. “The loan helped us to grow more quickly and with greater stability.”

Their long-term vision is to continue growing the nursery, focusing on wholesale contracts. Their plant inventory is deliberately diverse, but Dedrick’s favorite is definitely the roses. “We have amazing roses,” she raved. “We sell varieties that grow well in Hawaiʻi’s hot climate. Almost anyone can grow them successfully.”

This successful, multi-faceted, family-owned and operated business was more than twenty years in the making; it is the sweet fruit of their hard work and the courage to pursue their dreams. “I always wanted to start a business,” reminisced Dedrick, “and after 10 years of dreaming I decided to just go for it.”

Seated on a hand-carved Indonesian sofa in Bella Pietra Design’s elegant showroom, Dedrick contemplates their journey and had this advice for aspiring Native Hawaiian entrepreneurs: “Don’t feel like you have to figure everything out by yourself. There are so many successful business owners who are happy to share their time and wisdom. Let them mentor you.”