Hawaii is not a great place to start a business in my personal opinion. Many people try, but I think the failure rate is higher in Hawaii than other places. There is a lot of competition in areas that matter, like tourism. If you don’t already have a successful tourism focused office open in another part of the world, to come to Hawaii and make it work is going to be very difficult.
The cost of renting business space, employees and benefits, and the high tax rates are prohibitive.
Before you attempt to start a business in Hawaii, at least plan on living on the islands for a year first. I think a lot of valuable insight can be gained into the mindset of both Hawaii residents and tourists visiting the island. You have to know your customers and you have to know what the competition is doing. Hawaii has a very different population than anywhere in the USA and the world. It is very hard to guess what locals and tourists are going to like, and buy on a regular basis. I have seen so many companies start, and fail in Hawaii that I just expect that when one starts, it fails within a year. Probably well within a year.
Please don’t think, because you shape boards in California or Florida, you’re going to pick up and move to Hawaii and shape boards on the North Shore. Don’t think you’re going to air brush t-shirts and sell them at the beach. Don’t think you’re going to do anything that is already being done in the islands, and do it better than the people that are already there. It’s possible, sure, but you know what? Being in touch with the locals and visitors of Hawaii is essential to any business where you’re trying to sell to people on-island. Creating a company-to-company business is also difficult for newly arrived Hawaii residents. You need years on island.
Over the past twenty years I’ve created many businesses online. Every time I go to Hawaii I try to come up with some business outside of the computer that I could start. I have thought of many options, and none of them would work. I’m sure of it. The islands are packed with competing businesses. The businesses that are operating now have the upper hand.
If you’re intent on owning a business in Hawaii, buy one that is successful now. Don’t buy one that is struggling that you think you can pull out of the gutter. Buy a successful business that is cranking, and grow it even more.
If you’re interested in starting a new business go to these websites, they cover it pretty well:
Overview of a couple of Hawaii business start-ups
Wat to See Current Hawaii Job Listings?