WESTFIELD, NJ — One year after graduating from Westfield High School, Luke Beaulieu and Michael Stokes are simultaneously attending college and running their own startup business, Kahunas Sleeveless Hawaiians, a sleeveless Hawaiian shirt company.
Beaulieu, who studies entrepreneurship and finance at Babson College in Massachusetts, began building the concept last year as his senior project at Westfield High.
“I wanted to start a clothing business and thought what would happen if I were to bring together Hawaiian shirts and tank tops,” Beaulieu said. “They offer the comfortability and freedom that a regular Hawaiian shirt or tank top doesn’t offer. We like to think of them as all-purpose shirts, for all occasions.”
At first, business grew through word of mouth.
“A couple of friends who had bought the original Kahuna I made told me that a bunch of their friends in college had asked them where they had gotten their shirt and where they could buy them,” Beaulieu said. “When I contacted more of my friends and found that there was real demand for the product I knew that I had to start up the business again.”
In the year since Beaulieu launched the first order of Kahunas with his senior project, he has teamed up with Stokes, a fellow Westfield graduate and current engineering student at the University of Denver, to scale the business nationwide. The two 19-year olds have worked to better design, develop and market the product.
“To grow our business, we have been working on increasing our social media presence. We’ve been in contact with a number of athletes, models and social media personalities to get them in Kahunas and take pictures,” Beaulieu said. “We have already hired artists to design shirts for our next order. Later in the summer we plan on bringing in new designs and hopefully hiring people to help us out in the fall.”
So far, Beaulieu and Stokes have amassed over a thousand dollars of sales in a target demographic of ages 15-25.
For Beaulieu, the key to being an entrepreneur, and turning an idea like Kahunas into a reality, starts and ends with having thick skin.
“For aspiring entrepreneurs, I would tell them to not dwell on their mistakes,” Beaulieu said. “I have learned that when you start your own company you run into a lot of problems you don’t expect, but it’s essential to pivot. Be creative, find a solution and learn from it.”
Kahunas Sleeveless Hawaiians are available at www.kahunas.life for $24.99 in any one of three signature styles: The Big Kahuna, The Malasada and The Maverick.