“Being Hawaiian is a big part of who I am and what I’m trying to do,” said Maile Taylor, owner of Salt + Sea. “I design and buy swimsuits for women here in Hawaiʻi so they can feel confident in their own skin. I want to make sure they have a place they can come to.”
In 2016, Taylor opened up Salt + Sea on Kauaʻi. She started as a vendor in a co-op of boutiques in Lawai. From there, she opened her first storefront in Poʻipū in the Kukuiʻula Shopping Center. And recently, she opened a second storefront in Kapaʻa.
“Growing up on Kauaʻi, I remember the only place to get bathing suits, or clothes for that matter, was at Jeans Warehouse,” laughed Taylor. “My background is in business sales, so I moved to Oʻahu for some time. When I moved back to Kauaʻi, I realized there were not a lot of job opportunities.”
After some encouragement from her sister, she took the plunge and followed her passion of opening up her own business specializing in bikinis.
“To this day, I have no idea how I did it,” she recalled. “It has been a whirlwind of ups, downs, and craziness. But I’ve always had a passion for it, and everything just fell into place.”
Taylor is also able to carry many other local products in her storefronts, supporting friends and other local businesses. “In every sector of the business, we have local representation – from local jewelry to handmade soaps, from skincare products to clothing,” she explained.
She says it has been a community and family effort. Her oldest daughter, Waileia Botelho, who lives on the continent, is helping her with online sales, while Taylor’s younger daughter, Kahea Botelho, is helping her in the store.
“I have been a single mom for 20+ years. The experience of being a single parent is how I’ve been able to make this happen – having the wherewithal and fortitude to keep moving forward. I used to work three jobs, but this business has transformed our lives exponentially and I will always be grateful.”
Taylor also thanks OHA for its support throughout the years – from helping her pay for her college education, to providing an OHA Mālama Business Loan when she needed it most.
“Last September, I had the most trying time. Sales were so low and I knew I wouldn’t qualify for a conventional loan,” said Taylor. “The OHA loan itself was tremendously helpful – it provided me with the financial resources I needed to continue my ordering and to help get me from that place to where I wanted to be.”
Although COVID-19 has negatively impacted small businesses around the state, she has been pivoting her business model to grow her online sales.
“It’s definitely been challenging and stressful, but I hope I am able to model to my kids what it means to be successful,” reflects Taylor. “I want to show them the value of community, and of setting goals, hard work, tenacity and resilience.”