Kauai pool business stays afloat by diversifying

The owner of the Kauai company shares how diversifying services kept it afloat through hurricanes and the pandemic. By expanding the company's services to include things like home repairs and landscaping, they were able to stay busy even during the slowest times.

Kauai pool business stays afloat by diversifying

Dennis Oliver hitchhiked from house to house, fulfilling his dream. The Kauai-based family-owned pool construction and maintenance business has been operating for over 50 years.

Sarah Kaneko, Oliver's daughter and the company's general manager, said, "I'm very proud of this company." My parents laid a strong foundation for the business, and my husband & I have been able take the values they instilled into us to provide great customer service. We are proud of what we do.

Puni Nani Pools is located at 1895 Haleukana St., Lihue. They offer pool maintenance, repairs, and construction, and also sell portable spas. Oliver started the business in 1973 when he realized that there was a demand for a company to clean and repair pools. Kaneko, along with her husband Lance, who is the operations manager and vice-president of the company, owns the business today.

Kaneko explained that the company began small. She said that her father started out working in the basement of the house he lived in. He eventually expanded into a garage.

Kaneko stated that he started off with one account. He bought a screwdriver. The startup costs were low.

Kaneko said that the business employs eight full-time workers and generated a total revenue of just under $3.4 million last year.

How has the company grown since its inception? My dad was the only one who owned the business when he started it in [19]73. He used to hitchhike from his home to some of the accounts. He learned by doing. He read a magazine about pool maintenance. Over the years, my mother joined him. It was more about trying things to see what worked in the early 1970s. They were responsible for housekeeping. They did pool maintenance, sewage treatment. He didn't start building until the early 1980s.

How did Puni Nani Pools manage the pandemic outbreak? My dad was very visionary when he said, "OK, we are in the pool business, but we won't just focus on maintenance and construction because there will be fluctuations." There was no construction after the hurricane - we've been through two hurricanes. Construction took a big hit in 2008 when there was a severe recession. We did not sign any new contracts. We are diversified so that when one part of the business is weaker, we can still keep the ship afloat.

Covid threw everyone a curveball, and in every industry. There were many challenges in that period, from shortages of plastics to chlorine and equipment. We had to plan carefully because we had contracts.

What are the current trends in your industry? Construction is still a strong industry. Maintenance of pools is strong. Sales of spas were very high during Covid. However, there was a lack of availability. The turnaround time has almost returned to normal.

What are the current challenges that pool companies face? The biggest challenges are personnel -- finding the right people -- and rising costs. Our costs for freight, goods, and labor are constantly rising. Our rates increase to be profitable. The housing market on Kauai is deplorable. There is no affordable housing in Kauai. The two greatest challenges on the market today are rising costs and lack of personnel.

Passion is evident in the work you do. If your only motivation is to make money, you are not doing what you love.

Sarah Kaneko is the president and general director

Phone: 808-245-5911