Young Entrepreneur of the Year:
Tag Aloha Co.
Sponsor: Emily Latimer, Loihi Consulting
Alana Penaroza co-founded Tag Aloha Co. in 2013 to share Hawai‘i’s culture and lifestyle.
She and business partner AJ White’s first products were screen-printed shirts, though today the brand is known for its beach bags, which can be found at Whole Foods Hawai‘i locations.
“Our bags ultimately became the focus of our business and every few months we added more styles and designs,” the 32-year-old writes in an email. “We expanded into co-branded towels, backpacks, beach bum bags (our name for the classic fanny pack), keychains, towels, clutches, stickers, aprons and mugs. Today, we have almost 100 items just for Whole Foods Hawai‘i alone, and we have expanded to Whole Foods locations in California and Las Vegas.”
Tag Aloha’s bags are made from sustainably sourced organic cotton that’s grown and manufactured in India, she writes. In 2019, the Kailua business became Fair Trade Certified, which shows that its products are ethically sourced and made by workers who are paid fair wages and work livable hours.
“The certification has allowed us to share our values of sustainability and protecting workers’ rights worldwide with our customers and allowed our customers the assurance of shopping a product that is making a positive impact on the world,” Penaroza writes.
She adds that Tag Aloha employs five people, rents a warehouse and prints some bags in Hawai‘i.
“According to the Made in Hawaii formula (which includes running our business here, employing people here, renting our warehouse here, operating our business here, etc.) we are conservatively 56% made in Hawai‘i,” Penaroza writes.
In 2019, Tag Aloha expanded to 11 new local retailers and participated for the first time in the Hankyu Hawaii Fair in Osaka and the Made in Hawaii Festival in Honolulu.
Emily Latimer, founder of Loihi Consulting, says Penaroza has been instrumental in Tag Aloha’s nonprofit outreach. In 2019, Tag Aloha began donating part of its profits to the O‘ahu Surfrider Foundation; this year, the company will also donate to AccessSurf, a nonprofit that offers accessible beach and water programs for people with disabilities and their families.
“She is just very much a go-getter; she has so much energy, she’s really proactive and she’s really comfortable in a sales role and advocating for her business,” Latimer says. “But something I’ve definitely seen, especially over the last year, is her becoming more confident in being a business leader and really owning that identity.”
by Noelle Fujii-Oride