Building Their Trade in Shades: Maui Jim, Inc.

Fall 2006


Having begun as a sunglass hut on a beach in Hawaii, Maui Jim Inc. is no stranger to growth. By 1998, Maui Jim Inc. had grown from its small beach side beginnings to a nationwide distributor and manufacturer of high-quality eye wear. With offices in Hawaii, Canada and mainland U.S.A., Maui Jim was a successful business by anybody's standards. But the people behind Maui Jim had their eyes on making even bigger waves in the international market. The question was how to get there. While those running the company knew a lot about domestic markets and business in general, no one could claim expertise in the realm of international trade.

For the knowledge and advice they needed, Maui Jim Inc. turned to Bradley University's Turner Center for Entrepreneurship (TCE). Maui Jim Controller Gary Adelman began by attending a TCE seminar on foreign exchange. Gary found it to be so helpful, he decided to give TCE a call.

The Turner Center for Entrepreneurship directed the management team of Maui Jim to the International Trade Center (ITC) and its director Jim Foley. Jim began by meeting with the company's principals and listening to their questions about duties and international regulations. He answered what he could, then researched solutions to their other questions.

"Jim was willing to be our sounding board," Gary said. "He was open to any and all questions, and if he didn't have the answer at hand, he knew how to point us in the right direction for the in-depth knowledge we needed."

Before long, Maui Jim's move paid off. The International Trade Center helped Maui Jim Inc. work through its challenges and establish significant international sales. Since working with the ITC, international sales now represents a significant percentage of Maui Jim Inc.'s total sales and the company boasts eight offices in foreign countries.

"It's great to see a company commit to international growth and stick to it. It's so exciting to see such success and the commitment to growing," said Jim.

As Maui Jim continues to globalize, different challenges present themselves regularly. The ITC and TCE continue to advise the company on subjects such as planning and analysis of markets, tariffs, product classification, international documentation, and competitive analysis.

"We look at the International Trade Center as a business partner," Gary said. "They've been an incredible resource."

The State of Illinois International Trade Center at Bradley University has a full-time staff to assist your small business with all areas of exporting products or services. Contact them at 309-677-3075 to find out how they can assist you.