A Business Venture Full Of Energy

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - August 06, 2008
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Kanani McCullen makes it easy for Monster lovers
Kanani McCullen makes it easy for Monster lovers

Little did Kanani McCullen know when she strung leis in the garage after school to help her mom’s business that she, too, would own her own business one day.

But McCullen’s not making leis. She’s selling energy drinks in vending machines. The product, Monster Energy, jolts in six flavors: Original, Lo-carb, Khaos, Mixxd, Assault and M-80.

The most popular, she says, are the lo-carb and original, and The M-80 also is a favored flavor.

“Most people don’t know that Monster also makes coffee drinks,” says McCullen, a resident of Pearl City.

The Java Monster lineup of eight flavors are Nut-up, Originale, Mean Bean, Lo-ball, Irish blend, Russian chai, chai hai, and Loca Moca.

“Another thing most people do not know is that the coffee and the energy drink were formulated to be mixed with alcohol at bars,” she adds. “I haven’t tasted it with alcohol. The drinks are good by themselves. The energy drinks and coffee drinks both have vita-mins A, C, D, B6 and B12, so it’s not just caffeine.”

McCullen, an Aloha Airlines pilot for six years, came up with the idea for the business in April, about one month after Aloha Airlines closed.

The concept hit her because her fiance, Gabriel Aio, works from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. and then heads to a second job from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m.

“One night he needed to rush to the store before it closed to get his energy drinks to stay awake,” recalls McCullen.

That’s when she thought it would be a great idea to have energy drinks in vending machines. Her fellow pilot at Aloha Airlines, Darin Ho, encouraged her and said all you need is to find a niche, that one good idea. So McCullen embarked on a flurry of nonstop research, comparing machines and products, eventually making agreement with Anheuser-Busch to distribute its Monster Energy drinks in vending machines, and formed her company Island Energy Vending.

With the help of her family and friends, she’s boosting the business. Her dad, Woodley, who retired two years ago after 38 years at Aloha Airlines, pitches in. Her mom, Alicia, who sold leis to Safeways on Oahu with her own company, Alicia’s Leis, encourages her entrepreneurial spirit. Her sisters, Kehau Abe, a certified public accountant, and Sonja McCullen, an attorney, both rolled up their sleeves to assist in their areas of expertise. Many of her supporters, including business owner Shane Nojiri, have been helpful with connecting her with people who can help her.

The St. Joseph School graduate remembers her first presentation.

“I was so nervous,” she recalls. “My hands were shaking. My palms were sweating. I tripped over some words. And when the client said, ‘I think this is a good idea,’ those were the best words ever.”

She closed the sale.

One of the lessons she’s learned while running her own business is don’t underestimate yourself.

“Don’t be afraid to try,” she urges. “I already passed my goal to have three machines by the end of the year, so now I am working on getting more.”

For more information, call 225-1962.


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