Kealopiko has used their website to communicate the mission clearly:
“This land and its people made us who we are today. Knowing this at the outset, it has been part of our mission from day one to give back to our community.”
Kneubuhl shared with us how important it was to have an Indigenous business anchored in whanaungatanga. The partners and their decisions are intimately linked with their environments - their business is “simply the vehicle to tell the stories of who we are as a people”. ʻOhana (family) is central to how Kealopiko operates and is a pillar for the business as it experiences growing pains every few years or so. What has helped the businesswomen to stay focused on their mission and ensure a 16 years-long existence, are the roots of their origin. Kneubuhl says “it needs to come from a base of values… To me the origin of [an Indigenous business] needs to be rooted in a connection to things greater than yourself, like your kupuna (ancestors)”.
The kaupapa of Kealopiko is reciprocal, seeking to honor the land, their Indigenous history and to provide education and jobs for other Hawaiians. “We work for our people because they are who support us” Kneubuhl says. “Every season, they come out, they buy our clothes, they mahalo the stories that we're telling, and like that we don’t work for a corporation overseas.” Kealopiko’s line of All Aloha garments is locally sewn, designed, dyed, printed, and sold. Their knitwear line is produced in LA and uses organic cotton exclisively, and a limited amount of recycled polyester.
Kealopiko is a business of active resistance: “In Hawaiʻi, because tourism is such a big thing here, there’s this veneer over everything of hibiscus, plumerias, gingers and non-native tropical flowes. There’s this imagery portrayed with tourism that is used to package and sell our culture and place to outsiders for profit, the bulk of which is siphoned out by hotels and corporations that are not based in Hawaiʻi,” Kneubuhl says. “To push back on the narrative of what is Hawaiian and the idea that we depend on outside corporations for survival is also a huge part of why we do what we do.”