It’s no secret that to be in business today, you must be versatile, flexible, innovative, and patient. These traits are easily found in today’s entrepreneurs, like Our Kakaʻako commercial tenant Stuart Kam, KSK’06, owner and founder of ATH Sport. On August 31, 2021, Stuart shared his entrepreneur story, insights, and tips on starting a business during a virtual workshop moderated by Kirstin Kahaloa, KSK’01, Portfolio Manager of Sustainable Industry Development with Kamehameha Schools. More than 80 current and aspiring entrepreneurs, and students attended the webinar on Zoom.
If you missed the live presentation, view the recorded video above.
Speaker Stuart Kam’s Background
The workshop opened with a welcome message to attendees and introduction to Stuart. Kirstin shared that she and Stuart are alumni of Kamehameha Schools Kapālama, where Stuart graduated in 2006. He played college baseball at the University of San Diego and eventually transferred to Oregon State University after sustaining a shoulder injury. There, he graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor in Science degree in Business Administration with a focus in entrepreneurship. Soon after graduating, Stuart tried his hand at professional baseball but decided to return to Hawaiʻi.
How ATH Sport Was Born
Stuart created the company in 2012 with the primary focus of developing the best-tasting, all-natural sports supplement to build healthier athletes. He essentially filled a void when there weren’t many all natural sports supplements geared for endurance.
As for early challenges in starting the company, Stuart shared that he was surprised at how hard it was to get it off the ground. Although he studied entrepreneurship in college, he realized that having real-world experience is necessary, along with having access to capital. The biggest challenge was lacking the practical knowledge to build a company and getting initial sales in the e-commerce realm.
When Kirstin asked about the marketing strategies he explored to get sales going on the website, Stuart humbly shared how it was all word-of-mouth at first, with gym friends sharing his company on their social media platforms. Digital marketing wasn’t as prevalent in 2012 as it is today. Customer acquisition strategies, SEO, and converting customers into long-term ambassadors are now essential components of ATHʻs marketing plan.
Mission and Values
ATH is short for “athletics,” reflecting the company’s mission of building healthier athletes. As a Native Hawaiian entrepreneur, Stuart embraces the value of “imi naʻau,” which translates to “seeking knowledge.” Another motto he lives by is, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear,” which means to seek knowledge, you have to take initiative and be proactive about your education.
ATH Sport Products and Operations
ATH Sport offers a range of sports nutrition products, from pre-workout and post-workout supplements to protein powders. Their value proposition is that their products not only taste good and perform well but are also made from healthy, all-natural ingredients. They work with certified manufacturers and fulfillment centers on the mainland for product development and shipping, allowing them to concentrate on marketing.
Running a Business During the Pandemic
Though many businesses have struggled during the pandemic, because ATH is a digital native vertical brand, they remained resilient and grew their sales during COVID-19 as folks increased their online transactions. They also began offering more immunity boosting products, which are in demand. A big piece of advice that Stuart shared for those still navigating the pandemic is to “adapt, improvise, and overcome” and explore the digital space to adopt and retain customers.
Virtual Tour and Advice
Attendees also got a virtual tour of ATH’s facility on Cooke Street, which includes a demo kitchen and fitness area used as sets for content marketing and a small fulfillment center for local orders. After answering audience questions related to everything from logo design and research and development (R&D) to advice for students, Stuart concluded with how he pushes through challenges, a piece of advice that every entrepreneur can relate to: “Just keep going with one foot in front of the other.”
Our Kaka‘ako is pleased to offer engaging and educational virtual events featuring our commercial tenants. Mahalo to Kamehameha Schools for sponsoring our first Kūlia Entrepreneur Virtual Workshop! Mahalo to Kirsten Kahaloa for moderating and Stuart Kam for sharing his mana‘o! Also, mahalo to everyone who logged on and joined us. Be sure to follow ATH Sport on social media and visit their website www.athsport.co. Check back for more future events planned at Our Kakaʻako!