By Catherine Cluett Pactol | Editor
From a jewelry-making hobby to an online shop to a Molokai storefront, Nakita Coelho-Villiarimo has experienced all sides of running a business before opening the doors of HI-Bling in Kaunakakai earlier this year.
The shop, located above American Savings Bank, features affordable Polynesian inspired jewelry and apparel, along with home goods and organization items and more.
“Our mission is to offer a wide range of everyday products, at reasonable prices so that as many people within our community can afford them,” said Coelho-Villiarimo of her store. “Our vision is to create a better everyday life for the island community. Molokai is a unique island, where a lot of the items offered on the island are limited due to high prices of products and shipping.”
After graduating from Molokai High in 2004, followed by receiving her bachelor’s in psychology with a certificate in Hawaiian Studies from University of Hawaii, Hilo, Coelho-Villiarimo married a Hana boy John Villiarimo, and lived there for five years. While they started their family, she earned her master’s degree in social work. In her free time, she gathered beach glass, shells and other natural materials along the shoreline. She began creating jewelry and printing shirts and trucker hats, which she and her husband sold at local Hana pop ups.
“In 2014, my family and I moved back to Molokai to be closer to ʻohana,” said Coelho-Villiarimo. “I began working at Liliʻuokalani Trust as a social worker but continued to print products and create jewelry on the side. In 2016, we had our second child and my desire to stay at home to be with my children grew. In May of 2018, I made the life-changing decision to leave LT and turn my hobby of jewelry and merchandise into my full-time job.”
That’s when she launched HI-Bling as an online shop. Then in the beginning of this year, she and her family made another big decision: to move from a virtual to a physical storefront. The shop’s doors opened on Feb. 16.
“It has been a rough two years since losing my brother, Ekolu, in 2020. So deciding to move forward with the store had a lot to do with wanting to use my grief and pain, coupled with my knowledge in product research, into a positive experience for myself, my family, friends and the community, in order to provide affordable and quality products,” she said.
Coelho-Villiarimo’s goal for HI-Bling is to expand to offer affordable products in the area of children’s clothing, including basics like underwear, as well as developmental toys and products for keiki. She also hopes to provide basic clothing for men and women, and an affordable home and organizational section to include items such as dressers, storage containers, bath items, drawers and bedding.
She’s following her customers’ lead in what products to offer.
“My Aunty Mama shared with me on our grand opening day a great piece of advice: ‘Listen to your customers, they will let you know what their needs are.’ This was one of the greatest pieces of advice to receive,” said Coelho-Villiarimo. “I love listening to what each of our customer’s needs are and what they hope to see in the future of our store. Our customers’ gratitude is both inspiring and motivating, as it helps us to focus and hone in on being able to bring in useful and needed items. With that being said, we have experienced so much support and love from our community, it has been going well and we hope to continue to make our community proud.”
During the month of April, HI-Bling is doing a Noho Home giveaway valued at more than $400, with the winner drawn on April 30.
HI-Bling is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.