Two lists one comprised by About.com
and the other by US.Gov listed travel
or a vacation as a New Year's resolution. And, most people want to bring home at least one souvenir to extend the memories of their trip.
"I love to travel and I think most people want something special to bring home from their trip," said Andrea Butter of "Maui By Design."
From her Menlo Park home she manages the business which makes some of the most unique holiday ornaments
ever. "These ornaments are hand-crafted, painted from the inside of the glass ornament with images of the vacation spot that visitors love the most. The glass ornament reflects the light and becomes radiant whenever light falls on it, whether it’s the lights on a Christmas tree or simply the light from a lamp or window. Many people keep them on display year-round," she said.
Hawaii is a wonderful spot,
a paradise that people naturally want to remember for years to come and what better way than to buy a tree ornament. "There is so much schlock out there, stuff mass-produced and cheaply made and I think that if you buy something as a keepsake it should be something original, unique, well-made and something that will be appreciated, not forgotten or discarded," said Butter.
She also noted that ornaments are often passed down from one generation to the next. "An ornament like a 'Nei Hua' can be an inspiration to someone to want to go to a place like Hawaii." "Or, it can be a reminder of a special event, like a wedding or an anniversary, not just a vacation," she said. And, when people buy a keepsake they appreciate an affordable value. "Our ornaments do not cost that much, the average price is about $20.00, but is worth it because they are used as decoration year after year after year," she said.
"People comment on our Facebook page
that they like to collect ornaments and ours was among those they treasured." Butter considers her business a special blessing of sorts because she purchased the "Maui by Design" company and took it over in 2008 when the economic downturn hit and Lehman Brothers went under.
"I was awestruck by the beauty of the ornaments," she said. "I am glad I bought the company. But the first few years were not easy. They were hard. People were not spending money on vacations. Yet, the hard times is when people in business really learn things," she said.
"It is easy to be in business when times are good. But, when times are not and things get hard, it is a real training ground because that is when a business figures out what it must do to survive, or even thrive." And, believe or not, Butter says that a business must produce its best work or provide its best service during difficult times.
"Of course, I agree," said Alicia Klein
. She and Butter became friends after meeting at an international expo
more than two years ago. Klein thinks the ornaments are vibrant and beautifully crafted. She pointed out that Butter and her met because, "on a whim, she decided on a stopover in Frankfurt for a quick tour of the Expo while en route to somewhere else." "And, that about captures Andrea, she said - curious, sharp and fun."
Klein also commented to this reporter about Butter's business philosophy. "When the business environment becomes challenging, she said, a business must be sharp, adapt quickly and the decisions that are made become a little more high stakes. Certainly, in fat times, sloppy business practices do not bring the same pain as they do when the economy is down," said Klein.
Regardless of the situation of the economy, Butter upholds what is important.
"The most important thing to us when the recession was at its worst, said Butter was to spend the effort and capital to bring out a large number of new Hawaiian ornaments," she said.
Keeping note on the trends and watch the shifts in tastes and styles can make all the difference. With a background in computer technology and someone who used to work in Silicon Valley, Butter knows all about competition and how quickly things move on and then off the market. "Hawaii is basically at heart the same," but the tastes and styles of the people who visit there, changes. The images that capture the beauty of the familiar hibiscus flower or the styles of an 'Aloha shirt' changes as each new generation sees Hawaii from a different angle in their eyes. "You can't sit still in business, especially not during a bad economy," she said.
Managing the company "Maui by Design" has brought together not only her love of travel but also her love of original craftsmanship, art and design. The ornaments are each unique little works of art within themselves, literally. Because each ornament is individually hand painted from the inside of the glass ornament. Delicate ornaments have been made for years, but few are so painstakingly made and individually made like the ornaments painted in the 'Nei Hua' art form. Each one is individual and unique, no two are exactly alike.
"We sell the most ornaments in summer and winter when people are on vacation," Butter said.
At an average price of around $20 or so, Klein thinks an ornament like this is not hard on a traveler's budget. "I say they make a perfect memento of the islands!"