For this year's Hawai'i Executive Conference, I was asked to tell the origin story of Rusty's Hawaiian: the coffee farm, mill, and roastery my parents started in a little-known area of the Big Island. My talk wove their tale with those of former sugar-mill workers in the Ka'u District. Together, they transformed abandoned sugar fields into a region that grows internationally award-winning coffee.
The clips here highlight the big risk taken by Rusty and Lorie Obra, my parents, in launching their improbable dream -- and the even bigger one we faced as a family when my father died. The lesson here? Many times, we talk ourselves out of pursuing a vision. We don't have the "proper" training. We don't have every step figured out before we start. And when the going gets tough, we're scared to continue.
I'm here to tell you that it's OK. As I said to the audience, once you know your "why" in your head and your heart, the "how" shows up to meet you. And so it was in Ka'u. In 2007, two coffees from our region had a lucky break: They scored in the top 10 of the world's largest international competition for coffee farmers. One of those coffees was grown by Willie Tabios, a man who almost gave up his field because market conditions were so tough in the early days. My father convinced Manong Willie to hang in there with the promise that Ka'u coffee would become famous very soon.
Dad died before he witnessed Manong Willie's win. He never saw the governmental help that flowed afterward, or met the key figures in the specialty-coffee industry who helped train the fledgling farmers or buy their coffee. He never had a chance to celebrate with Mom when our coffees won Hawaii's state cupping competiton twice, or when she joined the winners circle of that big international coffee competition -- five years after Manong Willie first did.
All of this leads me to an even better lesson my father taught us: Hope isn't about the outcome. Rather, hope's reward is immediate. It's about having the courage to trust yourself and pursue your vision despite the uncertainty.
I share this story in case you, too, are weighing big risks and dreams. If this video helps you, please pass it on. Thank you for taking the time to watch!
~ Joan Obra