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Transforming Island Homes

Cindy McGee
Co-owner, Aspire Furniture

Please tell us about your business. Aspire Furniture is a multi-line furniture showroom based on Kauai, as well as in San Diego. We’ve been in San Diego since 1990, and opened the business on Kauai three-and-a-half years ago at Nawiliwili. We handle furnishings for every room in the home, as well as the lanai. We sell medium to high price points – it’s across the board; we try to sell all levels of quality. We’re also interior design-driven. So rather than just strictly retail and selling individual products, we have an emphasis on full-service interior design along with furniture purchases.

What are some of the brands you sell? Lexington Home Brands, and we have the exclusive for the Tommy Bahama line. RC Furniture is our largest upholstery manufacturer, and Ratana is our woven product. We also do container-direct out of Bali with a company called Southeast Trading.

Why did you decide to start business on Kauai? Our daughter Kasey Schoettler and her husband Brian moved here about seven years ago, and we knew we wanted to get the family all back into one place, and the best way to do that would be to bring the business here. By still having our Mainland store, it’s really helpful because we actually launch our containers from that location, so everything is shipped directly from there.

Why did you start this business? My husband Jeff’s first job out of college was with a furniture business. Once we got involved in the business, we decided to go off on our own. We started in furniture manufacturing. We started with high-end yacht interiors and moved into high-end interior design and from there we shifted into retail.

What sets your business apart from others? Having an emphasis on the design aspect of our business. Additionally, having our Mainland location, because we can ship full containers every two weeks. Having that flow of products constantly coming helps us keep our showroom full and have in-stock merchandise. On Kauai, there is a sense of urgency for people looking to get their homes refurnished, updated, remodeled or built. We’ve been able to key in on what people are looking for and the things that they need right away. So it means, by coming through the door, they immediately can start making decisions rather than have that overwhelming feeling of not being able to furnish their home on the island without having any concept of how to get that process started.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business? Transforming people’s homes. To me, that’s the nicest compliment: when we’re through with the process and how much they love where they live and how comfortable they are. It’s also rewarding to help people think outside of the box, because they tend to stick with what they’re used to. So to have a clear set of eyes and a vision to take them out of that comfort zone a little bit is very rewarding.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your business? Being on a tropical island. The logistics are probably the most challenging, but we really do our best to keep as much in our control as possible. That’s the thing that made us realize that, as long as we’re bringing our own containers, we are keeping the control in our hands, and it helps keep our quality level and the things that we do within our grasp.

What makes you get up every day and go to work? There’s never a dull moment – two days are never the same.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs? Follow your heart and follow your dreams. If you think negatively that it’s an impossible task, of course you’re not going to go ahead and do it. I think if you really have a passion for something and you work hard, it’s not going to be handed to you on a silver platter, but your dream definitely will be realized.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? Traveling. I had a chance to live in Europe for a while in high school, and I always wanted to go back.

Open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
3337 Nawiliwili Road, Lihue