10 coolest entrepreneurs: Kalani Mack and Kimo Mack

Taste of aloha

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SOCKSTARS: Believe it or not, socks aren’t all that popular in warm and wondrous Hawaii. Barefeet or “slippahs” are the preferred footwear of choice. So when we asked the Mack brothers to come to our photo shoot in their favorite socks, only one complied. “Kalani has lived in Utah longer, so he is Haole-fied now,” Kimo laughs. (In Hawaii, Haole is the term for foreigner.) (Photo by Dave Blackhurst/UVBizQ)

Mo’ Bettahs: Kalani Mack, 48 + Kimo Mack, 47

The more, the Mo’ Bettah. We’re technically cheating by counting Kalani and Kimo Mack as just one of our 10 Coolest Entrepreneurs. But it’s our magazine, and we can cheat if we want to. (Cool? Cool.) Besides. It’s bad taste to choose between brothers! And the Macks are known for their good taste. (Try their mac salad, bro.) The two Oahu-born boys are former city bus drivers turned restaurateurs. They moved to Utah and started Mo’ Bettahs in 2008, and have since grown the Hawaiian plate lunch restaurant to six popular locations across Utah. This year, they partnered with American Fork-based Four Foods Group with plans to expand the brand and spread the aloha even further. Shakas up!

Kalani Mack

BABY STEPS Something about flying in the air has always intrigued me. My plan was to join the Air Force, and then go on to become a commercial airline pilot. Our family struggled financially for many years, and I really wasn’t a good student. So I figured joining the Air Force would be the way to reach my goal.

SPRING IN YOUR STEP I love the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. That process of creating something requires thick skin. Failure is a beautiful thing.

THINK ON YOUR FEET My best ideas come to me in the early mornings. There is something about when the sun rises and the earth is renewed that charges me. I enjoy taking a moment to look out my front door and breathe in a new day. It seems to say, “Don’t worry about the things of the past; we are looking ahead now.”

WHAT’S COOL TO YOU?

“People who don’t fake their way through life. Be real! And driving a classic VW doesn’t hurt, either.” —Kalani Mack

TWO LEFT FEET There is so much power in understanding what your strengths and weaknesses are. Partner with others who pick up where you leave off.

PUT YOUR FEET UP I am a classic VW fan and love to mess around with my VWs. They transport me back to a simpler time.

PUT A SOCK IN IT I can spot posers a mile away. I’m very “old school” when it comes to business: You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

COLD FEET If you get nervous all the time, you probably need to go work for somebody. For me, working for somebody else makes me nervous!

HOT FEET I love food — always have. I have this rich history and culture I loved so much in Hawaii, and I always wanted to share that with others here on the mainland. The food there is so diverse, delicious, and different, and I knew if everyone were to taste it, they would love it, too.

BEST FOOT FORWARD Our partnership with Andrew and Shauna Smith at Four Foods Group is my proudest accomplishment. We knew at the beginning it was going to take a lot of work to grow this business, and that with our limited resources and abilities we could only grow it so far. We were approached several times by individuals who promised they could grow our business, but it never felt like the right fit until Four Foods Group came along. We are so proud to be a part of the FFG family and look forward to “spreading more Aloha” as we grow our brand.

Kimo Mack

BABY STEPS As a child I lived life with no real planning. I never looked at my future beyond a week.

FOOT IN THE DOOR Leaving my job as a bus driver. We sold our home in Kaneohe, I quit my job, and it was the most liberating feeling. We didn’t have much, but knowing no one had control over us and that I could script a future for my family was really special. It gave me a different outlook on life. I felt like I was “building” rather than “digging out from.”

SPRING IN YOUR STEP I love the creation of a business. That idea of taking thoughts and seeing them realized is super cool. I look at the stores we’ve created and it is literally a physical manifestation of things Kalani and I value and share. It’s us!

THINK ON YOUR FEET Sleeping on decisions is always best. I take my time with big decisions. I seek out people who can help me think through things, and I always seek heavenly help. I want to feel comfortable that I made the best decision I was capable of making. That way I always own the results. I never shift blame. I know the buck stops at me.

WHAT’S COOL TO YOU?

“Seeing people work hard at what they are passionate about. No matter what it is, that inspires me.” —Kimo Mack

TWO LEFT FEET The only thing we knew how to do when we started our business was cook the food. I’ve had people ask me for advice as if I was some kind of business genius. But I’m not. Kalani and I really are just two normal, unassuming — and in many ways — less-than-average people. I learned business by reading and asking questions. I watched others do it. I ate out at restaurants to see how they were doing things. I became a student of my business. Nobody really knows how to be in business until you do it. It’s a dynamic environment, and whoever jumps through all the hoops at the end of the day wins. With the right attitude, any weakness can be overcome.

SOCK IT TO ‘EM My dad had a frame in his office that said, “It’s hard to soar with eagles when you hang around turkeys.” I try to surround myself with people who are positive and proactive. At the job I left in Hawaii, I found myself surrounded by people who were not happy with life but were content knowing everyone else was unhappy, too. When I left, many were pessimistic about my plans and openly doubted I could do it. But my real friends were encouraging of my dream. We’ve had negative voices throughout every season of our business. Those naysayers don’t want you to succeed because they want to justify their own lives. I’m happy knowing the only person I have to convince and impress is myself.

BEST FOOT FORWARD I’m proud we were able to build our business to what it is today. Neither of us had any real business experience, and in spite of that we were able to overcome all the challenges that came with business ownership. It hasn’t been an easy road. We’ve made loads of mistakes — some of which have literally cost us tens of thousands of dollars. But we stand up every time we fail and learn from those lessons. I’m proud we have built a company that has made a positive impact in our lives, as well as the lives of our employees and customers.

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