January Barros met her husband and future business partner, Rodrigo, while she was hitchhiking one morning in Kona. Rodrigo, a Brazilian expat from São Paulo, was on his way to helicopter pilot school at the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport when he spotted her on the side of Kaiminani Street, thumb outstretched. She had recently moved back to Kona from the mainland and was trying to get to the Honokohau Harbor to go sailing. He had just landed on the island a few months prior, to earn his U.S. helicopter pilot’s license and he spoke very broken English.
“Live Passionately” is the motto behind the couple’s popular activewear brand — Lilikoi Wear — so it’s only fitting that their business starts with a love story. After their chance meeting in 2014, the pair fell fast and tied the knot in 2015.
Both entrepreneurs at heart, Rodrigo grew up working in his family’s event management business, and later built and sold a successful pet accessories company in Brazil. January has always had a love for fashion, designing, creating and selling custom handbags, hats and hairpieces. After getting married, starting a business together seemed like the next logical step. They founded Lilikoi Wear in January 2016, seeing an opportunity in the women’s activewear market.
Characterized by bright, limited-edition prints and inspired by the colorful culture of Rodrigo’s native Brazil and the Hawaiian Islands, Lilikoi Wear offers high-end activewear made with a new generation of “intelligent yarns” that support the wellbeing of the wearer and the planet.
“Our goal is to create a positive impact,” January said. “To help women feel powerful and beautiful when they put on their Lilikoi Wear, and for that garment to be at the cutting edge of social and environmental responsibility, while also protecting the wearer from the harmful rays of the sun.”
Lilikoi Wear fabric is made from the first synthetic fiber that is fully biodegradable. Knit from a blend of polyamide nylon and elastane spandex, it’s able to break down in landfill conditions within three years. Additional benefits to the wearer include UV protection rated UPF50+ (blocking 99-100 percent UVA/B rays), highly breathable, sweat-wicking, quick-drying, odor-resistant and anti-microbial. It’s also luxuriously soft.
Basically, Lilikoi Wear is about as close to a superwoman suit as you can get. Which is why, naturally, January and Rodrigo will have a pop-up shop for Ironman week, right next to Big Island Running Co. in Coconut Grove Marketplace, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 9-12, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13th. Lilikoi Wear can also be found locally at Beaches Resort Wear in Kona, Polynesian Paddling Products in the Costco industrial area, Bike Works Beach and Sports in the Waikoloa Queens Shops, and at the Lucky Cat Boutique in Kainaliu. They are currently looking to partner with more stockists across the Hawaiian islands, and on the mainland in California and Florida.
What’s next for Lilikoi Wear? The couple just launched their online store — Lilikoishop.com — this week, opening doors for national and international sales. They plan to expand into a men’s line in the future. They are also seeking to connect with social media brand influencers and models who would like to help showcase upcoming collections, and share the “Live Passionately” brand message.
So, what does “Live Passionately” mean? Rodrigo distills it down to a simple but powerful four words — “Do what you love.”
Info: Follow Lilikoiwear on Instagram @Lilikoiwear, and on Facebook @Lilikoiwear. Check out their new online shop – Lilikoishop.com. Get in touch at Aloha@lilikoiwear.com.
Emily Gleason is a member of Business Network International (BNI) Alii Networkers Chapter in Kailua-Kona and helps business owners reach their dream clients at www.mthewriter.com. She contributes a monthly business feature, Imua in Business, to West Hawaii Today.