How to Start a Small Business in Hawaii

Hawaii is the westernmost state in the U.S., joining the nation in 1959. Its temperate climate, ethnically diverse population, and connection to both the U.S. mainland and various Asian economies presents unique business opportunities for Hawaii entrepreneurs. Starting a small business in Hawaii can be a strategic, profit-building enterprise. It can also be a challenge. Knowing the proper steps to take when starting a small business in Hawaii can save you time further down the road.

Research various entrepreneurial opportunities available to you. Possible business ventures vary depending on which Hawaiian island you live on. Each island has its own unique needs.

Calculate potential start-up costs for starting a small business in Hawaii. One of the most important costs to take into account is the cost of shipping and transportation. All merchandise and products arrive in Hawaii via either air freight or a barge. If you are starting a small business on one of the Neighbor Islands (i.e. islands excluding Oahu, such as Kauai, Lanai, Molokai, Maui or the Island of Hawaii), there will be additional transportation costs because most items will need to be shipped through the international airport and shipyard on Oahu.

Complete and submit a State of Hawaii business registration form. The form can be located at any county office, or online on the State of Hawaii Department of Commerce's business registration webpage at Once you submit the business registration form, the State of Hawaii will notify you of any additional forms or permits that you need to complete.

Determine any extra licensing that you will need to attain. For example, if you are opening a food service, you will need to obtain a Hawaii commercial kitchen license. All required regulations, licensing forms and permits can be downloaded from the State of Hawaii's Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism at

Research business financing options in Hawaii. Two major Hawaii banks that offer small-business financing include the Bank of Hawaii ( and First Hawaiian Bank (

Work with a financial advisor and the financial institution you chose in Step 5 to draw up a working business plan that takes into account the unique costs and needs of conducting business in Hawaii.

Open your small business and begin promoting your services and products.


  • Shipping fees can add considerable costs to your baseline prices due to Hawaii's location in the Pacific.