Hawaii News November 11, 2020

Local Business Spotlight: Kona Natural Soap Company

It’s Wednesday afternoon on the “Big Island” of Hawai’i and Greg Colden, owner of Kona Natural Soap Company, is trying to pin down what his business is all about. “Basically,” he begins, “we make soap… but we’re also a destination, we’re a retail store, we’re an online store… there are so many different facets to what we do that it’s hard to quantify ‘we just do this.’” There’s a brief pause between each statement, and you get the feeling Greg wants to make sure he doesn’t leave anything out. And for good reason. The Kona Natural Soap Company has thrived in these turbulent times in part because they have been able to shift focus and rely on some different aspects of their business. In fact, 2020 has been successful in many ways despite outside influences, with Greg and co-owner Marty Corrigan rethinking and reconfiguring what it means to be effective proprietors in a post-pandemic economy. 

Photos courtesy of: Leihua Canano Wike

“March 16th sticks in my mind, because that was the last date I was able to give a guest tour of our farm.” Up until that point, Greg and Marty regularly provided guests guided tours of their five-acre farm in the town of Holualoa. A part of the “Old Tanaka Quarry,” the area is steeped in history. Guests were able to learn about the land and see how coffee and chocolate are grown and processed, how Greg and Marty incorporated farm products into their soap line, and how the actual soap is made. Since starting the business over fourteen years ago, Greg and Marty have hosted dining events, provided agricultural tours and private guest experiences, so physical customer involvement has always been a part of the company. When that all changed in the spring of 2020, the two were forced to rethink their process. 

Greg muses, “Marty stepped forward and really enhanced our web presence. Through SEO, online promotions, pay-per-click campaigns, and updating our website, we were able to reach much larger audiences than in the past.” However, increased “success” was in some ways bittersweet as it came at the cost of human interaction, as many of the farm’s guests used to enjoy multiple visits and tours of their farm. The company’s retail operations also ground to a halt, as the state shut down shopping experiences for public safety. Greg comments, “We were able to overcome all of that with our online sales, alongside forming some new relationships with local companies and real estate agencies, like Corcoran Pacific Properties.” 

Photos courtesy of: Leihua Canano Wike

The Kona Natural Soap Company was also able to bolster relationships amongst the community, providing agricultural advice to new Big Island residents. “We pride ourselves on being a resource for the community,” Greg explains, “to help people understand what types of plants will grow in our local environment, and how to best set up a sustainable garden.”

A self-described “small, local business,” Greg and Marty’s “little” soap company has established itself on the broader world stage as well, garnering multiple awards including “best chocolate in the world” at the Salon Du Chocolat in Paris, France. International notoriety aside, Greg and Marty look forward to the time when they can get back to normal and start welcoming guests back into their store and farm yet again.

The next time you visit the Big Island of Hawai’i, you can find the Kona Natural Soap Company at 78-6749 Mamalahoa Hwy. Holualoa, HI 96725. You can call the market at (808) 322-9111 or visit them online at www.konanaturalsoap.com

Photo courtesy of: Leihua Canano Wike