Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sewing and Shopping...the life of this Bag Maker!

When I haven't posted for over a week, you know I've been busy! I have been helping Menehune man in the yard in the mornings and then when he goes to work, I put my treadle to the metal!

Palm Palm over on Kauai has been selling my Kimono Keys like crazy. She said she sold 40 this week alone! So yesterday I whipped up another 37 to ship off to her tomorrow. Then she accidently sold a bag that had been special ordered, so I made a duplicate tonight to include in tomorrow's shipment.

I drove up mauka this week and bought a couple hundred coffee bags. It is a little over 60 miles round trip and makes for a long day. It is fun visiting the farms and chatting with the farmers to see what they are up to.

Dave and Trudy at Heavenly Hawaiian were nice enough to help me with sorting out 40 coffee bags. They are very supportive of my venture.

I also met some new friends at the Kona Pacific co-op. They had heard of my bags and were eager to sell me some of their to add to my collection of Kona Coffee Bags!

Karen and Lee over at Hula Daddy are becoming old friends! Their bag is very popular with my customers. It was nice seeing them again, too!

Tom Bong and Linda up at Bong Brothers are the furthest away on my route. They used to be married, once upon a time but now Linda has the store and Tom does the coffee. Linda's store is at Honaunau. She makes the best vegetarian wraps. I was getting hungry by the time I stopped in there and when I saw this vegie wrap I had to try it! It had tofu, shredded carrots, beets, lettuce and avocado wrapped in some sort of whole-grained tortilla or flatbread.

I also had to buy me some apple bananas and a great big mango from the front porch of the Bong Bros. store. If you are visiting the Big Island, head south, just past the Middle Keei Rd on the makai (ocean) side of the highway. Bong's store is a historic building where you will find some authentic aloha. Now, if I could just talk Tom into reordering his beautiful cardinal logo Bong Bros. coffee bag! I will keep working on him as I have for over a year now.

In the meantime, I think I have a better chance at having Linda print up her own logo of Bong Sistah's on some bags. That would be a fun one!

Something that some people don't know about my business plan is that I like that fact that I use authentic Kona Coffee bags. Yes, I could have my own printed up with "Sasaki Farms" or something similar on them as has been suggested, and in the long run it would save me some $$$...but that isn't my plan! I love the fact that I buy from working farms so that if someone buys one of my coffee sack totes or purses, they could actually come to Kona and go visit that coffee farm! And the variety of logos on the bags exemplifies the variety of people that own the farms. There are the lawyers who have moved over and bought land and became farmers. There are people who have grown up on this island and are doing what they know best. The one thing they all have in common is their enthusiasm for Kona coffee and love for this island that we all live on.

a hui hou

Friday, August 21, 2009

Made in Hawaii Fesitval

Well, I'm home from Oahu. I had an amazing day. I met Janet Lipps, owner of the Pacific Islands Gallery at our precious Kona airport (it really is precious) and we flew over to Oahu for the Made in Hawaii Fesitval. It is a gigantuous show of items that are made in our 50th state. I wanted to attend as a buyer this year to check it out and see if I could possibly sign up for next year. I had to investigate the logistics of shipping my bags over to Oahu and setting up a professional looking booth and all the extras that go along with doing a "craft" fair. I had intended to include photos in this post. I even took my camera to Honolulu this morning....but forgot the san disk card in my computer at home! ugh! So there are no photos of the Chinese Dragon that greeted us as we walked in or the marvelous people we encountered today. So I will have to do my best to describe the day for you.

Todays events opened to the general public at 10 am. We arrived a little early and waited in line behind a pretty young mother and her little 7 month old baby girl. She shared with us that she had worked for the state for several years but with cutbacks was heading to the mainland to make her new home in Washington state. But she added, "we'll be back someday". She fed money to the Chinese Dragon to ensure her daughter's good luck and we bid aloha to her. Then we entered the main arena. WOW! So many booths.

Janet and I sort of drifted off in our own directions early on and reconnected later. She was looking for unique items for her gallery and I was looking at booth configuration, lighting, and displays. I also wanted to see if anyone else was selling items that would be competition to me. (no one was I am happy to report!)

At 11am, I meandered into the concert hall and had a bite to eat and listened to Makana. He is just an amazing young slack key guitarist. I have heard him live several times and always enjoy his musical talent.

I must admit something to you here that I am a bit ashamed of. I did not expect the Aloha on Oahu that we experienced today. When I did approach fellow artisans and tell them that I was considering a booth for next year, I was blown away by the responses. One gal I met, who makes beautiful sea glass wrapped jewelry, was so full of aloha that she told me she has extra tables and if I needed to borrow, just to let her know! Her name is Tanya Maiava Ochoa. She is still working on her website but her email address is

I stopped by my friend, Joan Blackshear's booth and was in awe of the beauty of her work. When you see her display of silk table runners and wall hangings, it is breath taking! I HAD to buy one of her runners for myself! And she is SO funny! I love how in love with her husband she is. He cracks her up and it is fun to watch them together. go to to see her work.

I also met two women who just cracked me up. One shared that she just didn't know what she would do if her husband died because she relies on him to set up her booth and cut out her wood products! We laughed! I am going through my collection of business cards and I am thinking that one of the gals was Charlotte Martin Del Campo - Retailer of Various Gift Items. (no web site)

Then I had the opportunity to meet an artist that I have admired for a very long time! She too has an Etsy site, which is where I discovered her. Her name is Holly Kitaura. This woman is amazing. Her art is whimsical and colorful. Much of it cracks me up, which may be why I purchased 3 pieces! And this woman who I admire, but who I just met, offered to let me crash at her house if I do the show next year! Did I mention how much I love Hawaii and the people here? Here is her link:

I had a highlight of the day that truly gave me "chicken skin" as we say here in Hawaii....or "goosebumps" as they say in Idaho! I was purchasing some spices from Kaiulani, the queen of spices on Oahu, and a woman next to me says, "Where did you get your Sasaki Bag?". Stunned, I replied, "I AM Sasaki Bags!". Little did she know that she just fulfilled one of my dreams! Someone recognized my bag without even seeing the tag! (its on the inside). She said that she had been looking at my website for quite awhile but hadn't made a purchase yet. She gave me her name and if she reads this, ....

when you are ready to purchase a Sasaki Bag, let me know it is you, and I will ship it to you for free because you really made my day!

On the flight home, Janet ended up sitting by a pretty girl named Dominique, who is my daughter's age, 28, who was coming to Hawaii because her grandpa just passed away and she wanted to support her parents at this time. We started chatting because I showed Janet the "feet" on Dominique's tote bag and told her I am looking for that kind of feet for my large totes. Then we realized that Janet and Dominique were dressed almost identically! Blue jeans, dark cowl top, greenish leather was uncanny! In the end, Janet offered to save Dominique the $25 cab fare to her parents and she drove both me and her home.

Maybe it was just all the aloha we had experienced today that we just had to share. That is what it is all about, right? Can you tell I had a wonderful day? Will I do the Made In Hawaii next year? I am not ready to decide yet. It is a bit overwhelming. But I will definately consider it.

a hui hou

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Aloha Friday

It is almost aloha Friday...and what a week it has been. I think I broke my own record of bag making by completing 50 bags this week. I'll have to double check past figures!

Tomorrow, I am flying off to Oahu for the Made in Hawaii Festival. My friend and fellow artist, Joan Blackshear, is having a booth as she has for several years now and has been very successful. It is a huge event. I am going so I can check it out and see if it is something I could ever attempt. Joan makes gorgeous silk table runners and wall hangings, but it all folds quite bags wouldn't pack so nicely. I was putting together some numbers and trying to figure out how many jumbo rubbermaid containers it would take, full of Sasaki Bags, in order to do the show justice. And how would I transport all of those containers to the airport and then to the event? But that is why I am going....just to watch and learn.

Also tomorrow is the grand opening of Palm Palm on Kauai. I am so excited for Marjorie! Her other store was so beautiful, I can only imagine what she will do with this one. I shipped off 5 Big Kahuna Bags and 21 Kimono Keys today. She should have them by Saturday.

So all in all, I had a good week and am looking forward to my trip to Oahu. I will be flying over with Janet Lipps, the owner of Pacific Islands Design Gallery in Holualoa. She will be scoping out the festival for fresh artists to feature in her gallery. It sounds like a fun and exhausting day!

a hui hou

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Growing Pains

Remember when you were little and any aches and pains were explained as being "growing pains"? Well, these days, it isn't my body that is experiencing this, but my business! I have worked so hard and am seeing rewards in many ways yet it has come to a point where I have to grow. My wholesale accounts are doing an amazing job of selling my bags and my Etsy store is keeping up a steady sales pace. But that all means that I have to spend more money! Sometimes I feel like I am just spinning my wheels because I keep putting all my profits back into more supplies! Always preparing for bigger orders. Anyone who has known me since I was a little girl knows that I am not a spender. I am a saver! I remember my sister always spending her allowance as fast as she got it and I always had a little jar of money that she would inevitably end up borrowing.
(This is me and my sis probably about grades 3 and 5 looking ever so spiffy!)
This week I opened up a couple of new wholesale accounts to buy my supplies from. I remember two years ago when I was beginning to buy fabric, I would pick out a couple fabrics and maybe splurge and wince as I told the gal to "go ahead and cut 3 yards for me." Now I am preparing to order 11 bolts from one company! I already have 29 bolts plus flat folds of fabric in my studio! But it is all different! Some of it is aloha fabric, some of it is coffee themed fabric, some is just novelty fabric, and now I have orders that require Amy Butler fabric. Why am I explaining this to you....You know how it is! Atleast I do use my stash of fabric. I know some gals who really just collect it!

I should find out by September 1st if I am going to get the order for 200-400 bags. The final count hasn't been decided yet. Just doing the supply list for that is mind boggling. Over 300 yards of fabric, 400 grommets, 300 yards of cotton webbing, 200 magnetic snaps...and the list goes on! I just pray that Sven and I stay healthy until this order is complete! (Sven is my Swedish sewing machine)

(my daughter took this photo 10 years ago when we took a trip to Maui for her graduation. I was looking pretty reflective, which is how I've been feeling again lately)

It has all been a bit nerve racking! But even with all the stress, I am still doing well on my diet. I have lost 7.4lbs in the past 3 weeks. I do believe that weight watchers is probably the most healthy and supportive way to go. I get great tips from the others at the meetings. I have quite a ways to go...but I am headed in the right direction.

I keep telling myself that you have to spend money to make money. My daughter who is a bank auditor, reinforced that mantra the other day and assured me I am doing what I need to do. It's funny how the roles switch back and forth once your children are grown and become experts in their own fields and can offer you advice!

So even though the spending is stressful to me, I believe I need to follow this path and see where it leads me. Thanks for following my journey.

a hui hou

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A good day...

Do you ever have a day that just feels good? I had one today. Menehune man and I got up and went to the Keauhou Farmers Market this morning just to set the pace for the day.

Then I needed to drive up to Holualoa to see Janet Lipps at the Pacific Islands Gallery and replenish her stock of purse hooks and Kimono Keys. I hadn't seen Janet for a couple of months so it was nice reconnecting. She has done such a beautiful job with staging her gallery. It just looks "alive". It doesn't hurt that she has a special corner dedicated to Sasaki Bags! I can't tell you how that feels to walk into a gorgeous art gallery and see your own works there! Is it possible to feel both humbled and gratified at the same time? If so, I was.

Today was also the first Saturday of the month which is also known as my "Stitch and Bitch" day. I have a close group of women that include me in their circle. We are sisters of a sort...brought together by a common bond of sewing...but then we dove deeper and found other things that bind us. These are the gals I will probably rely on in dark times...and laugh with on the brightest of days. Most of us met via buying our machines years ago at a local Viking sewing store. For us it was "the corner bar" where everyone knew your name. It was owned by a kind and quiet man named Ed who passed away due to ALS. We took classes together or would just meet up to chat or "show and tell" about the projects we were working on. They inspire me on days that I don't feel creative.

One of our gals has a sister who was recently diagnosed with cancer and is having chemo treatments. She lives on the mainland and none of us know her. But today, this great group of women worked on a simple project to send some Aloha to "Mary". I donated one of my autograph bags and brought in a couple of books with quotes. Everyone, signed the bag and we wrote encouraging, funny and supportive words all over the bag. I hope she will like it.

After leaving my girlfriends, it was "family dinner night" with Earl's family. We all got together at his mom's house and had a nice dinner and visited. It helps me to do this since my own family is so very far away.
So in the end, it was just a good day. Nothing outlandishly special. But time with my husband, time with my girlfriends, and family. Can't beat that....with a stick!

a hui hou