Some of my favorite stories to feature are those with unexpected twists to them - when things don't go according to plan . . . and the beauty that comes with that. It takes courage to switch gears and that is exactly the story of Catherine and her business Maka Marketing. She embodies the meaning of evolving in order to stay true to herself, adapt to external changes and propelled by a mission to help. Her story is one of embracing change, letting go of the the original plan and trusting a journey that continues to add to the body of work of her life.
Tell us about who you were at 10 years old?
My father’s career in international banking took us to many places around the world - Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Philippines, Mexico, and when I was 10 years old I lived in Seoul, South Korea. I wanted to be an FBI agent or a marine biologist. I’ve always loved solving problems, and those careers made sense at the time. We lived in a beautiful mountain neighborhood and I spent a lot of time playing outside or going for walks. So, another passion was creating posters about saving the environment.
What steps, or dead ends, lead to what you are doing now?
I started my career in hotel management, but it is a very challenging role that didn’t quite fit me. When I finally realized this, I was a little lost and I felt like I was starting from scratch. I received my degree in Business Management with the aspirations of running my own hotel one day, and every job that I had up until this point was in hotels. I decided to apply to anything that seemed different and interesting. I came across a web designer position for a local tour booking company. I had dabbled in web design, but all self-taught. The owner was also a web designer, and took a chance on me. For 5 years, he taught me the ins and outs of designing, developing and managing large websites.
Most recently, due to Covid we lost our childcare for our baby and the company I worked for could not accommodate remote work. Although this was disappointing, it pushed me to create my own business where I can utilize all my skills to help other businesses and people who have had to pivot and evolve during this difficult time. I combined my web design and digital marketing experience to help small businesses on Kauai promote their wonderful product or service to a larger audience.
Describe a typical day or week in this kind of work?
What I love about this type of work is that each project has its own interesting challenges to solve. Generally, I start each project with an in depth call with the client. I gather the details of what their web design or marketing needs are. I also want to know their story and their brand’s story, because no matter what I do for them it’s vital for me to understand this and connect with them. From week to week, I’m working on web design and marketing projects, collaborating with partners, video meetings with clients, drafting proposals for potential clients, and juggling two little girls.
Why does this work matter?
I hope one day soon we can welcome back travelers safely, but this pandemic has shown how reliant our island is on tourism and the immense need for Kaua’i to diversify its economy. A way to bring Kauaʻi’s amazing businesses to a national or global scale is through strategic digital marketing. In order to compete with bigger brands, a company’s website needs to be well designed both visually and technically. A beautiful website is not enough, and digital marketing tactics are key to driving target audiences there. Depending on budget and timing, there is a range of strategies that can be implemented.
What have you discovered along the way about who you are?
In all the positions and industries I’ve worked in, what I love most is hearing people’s stories and who they are. I also love design whether it’s web, graphic, interior… There’s something about it that draws me in and I continually want to uncover more about it. Lastly, I learned how much of a perfectionist I am when it comes to work.
How have your goals stayed the same or changed through this process?
My career goals have shifted this year, because I didn’t intend to start my own business. Now, my mission to help our island in this way has been emboldened after being incredibly inspired by my clients’ passion and perseverance. One thing that has stayed the same is my desire to learn, grow, and push myself.
Who has influenced you to learn, grow and push yourself?
My parents' journey and love is a big influence on this philosophy. They grew up in rural provinces in the Philippines. My mom describes simple games they’d play with just a rubber slipper or chasing sugar cane trains to grab a stalk to chew on. My dad’s older siblings did not go to college, but they contributed so that he could attend university in Manila. It was there where he met and fell in love with my mom. Years later my grandparents moved to Saudi Arabia where my grandfather worked for the National Bureau of Investigation. My mom moved there as well for the growing job opportunities. My dad was so in love that he followed her, and that is how they began their lives abroad. As my dad’s career grew and we started moving around, my mom stopped working. I deeply admire the immense work it took for my mom to raise 3 children, pack up our home every few years, make a new home and adjust their children into schools in foreign countries. My parents’ love, partnership, and sacrifice gave us the most wonderful childhood. Not only did they put education as a priority, they showed us that you can create the life you dreamed of even though it's not always comfortable or easy at first.
When Obama was first elected as president, he spoke at my brother’s college graduation. He described how critics said he was too young or inexperienced for this role, but he reminded everyone “your body of work is never done.” I tell myself this when I have moments of doubt in what I’m doing, and that we are continually evolving and we learn more with each new chapter.
I’m in awe of my husband and his dedication to protecting the environment. He works in plant conservation at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens, and spends most of his time using drones to search for rare plants on cliffs. No matter how full his plate is, he always encourages me and helps me in any way he can to pursue my aspirations. He gets just as excited about my new projects, and this year we completed a graphic design certificate together. A fun twist to date nights during the time of Covid!
What makes you feel most alive?
Becoming a mama is what makes my whole being feel alive. My heart fills everyday in big and small moments with them. During the ups and downs of this year, my daughters have been the light and hope that keeps us going. Being a parent is the greatest and hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I love it more than anything.
Also, experiencing something new for the first time - especially a place or culture. Before the pandemic, our family would explore new countries every year. The break from traveling this year has allowed us to discover new locations on Kauai and appreciate everything we have here.
What are you
Reading? Becoming by Michelle Obama and How to Make a House a Home
Listening to? The Frozen soundtracks are usually on repeat at our house, but when I get a moment I’m listening to podcasts - The Daily, Second Life, Girl Boss, Stuff You Should Know, the Accidental Creative, Preshift Podcast
Watching? Jane the Virgin, The Good Place, The Mandalorian
What's your favorite way to decompress or balance out the work life?
Pre-Covid the answer would be traveling with my family, but right now it is going to the beach with them. Also, I love a good hike and yoga.
What challenge has revealed hidden strengths?
Throughout my childhood, I moved around a lot to different countries. I constantly had to adapt and make new friends. As a shy person, this upbringing encouraged me out of my comfort zone and I developed a skill for connecting with people wherever I am. This has been a great asset in my personal relationships as well as professional ones.
What are you noticing in this season?
We have an opportunity to recreate ourselves and our island. It is a time where we need to be innovative and rebuild a more sustainable economy. Although everyone has their own struggles this year, I have truly felt the spirit of aloha and compassion in the face of adversity. There is a genuine desire to come together and lift each other up. I’ve also felt the amazing devotion of women supporting women in business and life.
What are you curious about exploring?
Interior design has been another dream of mine, and the timing hasn’t been right to pursue it until now. Along with Maka Marketing, I’m currently working for an architect and assisting her with interior design projects. I have a natural eye for design, but I’d like to build more technical knowledge and skills.
What advice would you offer to other entrepreneurs?
When I have a moment of hesitation or uncertainty in my business or creative process, I take a deep breath and power through. The other side is not as far as you think. And don’t be afraid to ask for help especially from other entrepreneurs. They understand the struggles, and want to guide others to be successful too. Tessa from Fablefox Marketing has been an amazing mentor through my own business development. She takes time to answer my many questions, and graciously shares her experiences and useful tools to help me avoid pitfalls. I am so grateful for her. So, if any entrepreneur out there needs to chat, I’m here for you too!
You can find out more about Maka Marketing via the website
or follow along on IG @makamarketing