Business On A Creative Note

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - January 23, 2008
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Marsha Hamamoto writes a note on her Island-themed stationery
Marsha Hamamoto writes a note on her Island-themed stationery

Sending a handwritten note to someone is a special thing to do, but writing it on nice stationery emphasizes the effort put into it. Marsha Hamamoto created a line of stationery that features note cards and sticky notes with a touch of Hawaii. Her company, Island Papercraft, also offers many other island-themed stationery products such as gift tags, calendars, recipe cards, note pad gift sets and magnetic lists with a matching pen. Designs feature bright colors, a hula girl, surfer girl, plumeria, hibiscus, slippers and more.

Hamamoto says the challenge is to be competitive.

“You can’t rest on your laurels,” she reveals. “The creative mind doesn’t rest.”

The Aiea-based businesswoman uses the work of a graphic artist to carry out her vision. With the help of four independent sales representatives, the array of products are sold at many stores across the state. The sales staff and the artist have been with her for about nine years, and she believes they stay with the company because they like the product.

“They’re free to give their input,” Hamamoto explains. “Some of our product ideas have come from store managers through the sales representatives. They are part of the process, and that makes it fun for them to see some of the ideas they bring come to fruition. And I really appreciate that there isn’t a high turnover in staff because it would be hard to keep the flow. If you have to constantly keep finding new people, it’s like taking steps backward.”

An example of input from the stores is the local-style graduation money card, which she still continues to produce.

Future goals for the company include selling more products in Japan and getting involved in specific projects with nonprofits and schools, and custom stationery.

One of Hamamoto’s keys to success is finding a niche.

“You have to see what the trends are and what the pulse of the customer is, which is not necessarily some of the same things that I might prefer,” she says.

Raised in Los Angeles, Hamamoto spent many summers in Hawaii as her parents are from here. A UCLA history major, she came to Hawaii for a six-month break and never left. After working in the travel industry with the airlines, she started getting interested in stationery, noting that there hadn’t been any new designs in a while. In 1988 she incorporated her company. It was with her first phone call for information on how she would go about getting her design ideas out there that she met a graphic artist with whom she worked for the first eight years of her business.

“Not being an artist, you need a connection,” says Hamamoto. “She taught me about the printing business as well.”

She says with note cards and sticky notes featuring dolphins and flowers as one of her first products, she catered her ideas toward the tourists, as she started selling at ABC Stores.

Hamamoto shares one of the lessons she’s learned over time.

“When I was selling in Waikiki, I thought I needed something for tourists, and something different for locals,” she admits. “When we merged the trends, that’s what we have now.”

She acknowledges the support of her husband, Farrington grad Berton Hamamoto, who is president and principal broker of Property Profiles Inc. He just completed his term as the 2007 president of the Honolulu Board of Realtors.

Supporting local businesses is one of Hamamoto’s priorities, as she does her best to have her note cards, gift tags and notepads printed here in Hawaii.

“It is personal to local businesses,” says Hamamoto. “They take pride in what they do for me, and they see it in stores, and they know they did it. They appreciate that you made it in Hawaii and you’re supporting the local economy. We will continue to do what we do.”

For more information, call 486-9810, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or log onto


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