OHA loan helps Bella Pietra expand inventory
Layla Dedrick and her husband Andrew knew as newlyweds that they eventually wanted to own their own business.
In 2001, they made that a reality, opening Bella Pietra Design, a natural stone company that offers premium stone, like marble and travertine, as well as glass and porcelain tile. “It’s countertop material, flooring and walls,” Dedrick said. “We also do decorative things, like backsplashes, when you want a nice accent behind your kitchen counter.”
Dedrick has a background in management, while her husband’s experience was selling construction finishing products, the inspiration behind the company. “Out of all the construction products he sold, he just really liked tile and natural stone specifically,” she said. “Just the beauty of what Mother Nature creates is continually amazing.”
In addition to selling the materials, Bella Pietra tries to educate homeowners so they make the right choices for their project. “What might be great for a small condo in Kaka‘ako for a retired couple is probably different from what a young family needs, or a family with dogs,” she said. “We try to find out what their needs are for their lifestyle and help them make a good choice that they’re going to enjoy, that’s practical, and if it’s important to them, helps increase the value of their home, as well.”
The Dedricks, who also own landscape and garden supply company Geobunga, took out a home equity loan to found Bella Pietra 16 years ago. That enabled them to take out a lease for their showroom in Iwilei, as well as a warehouse. In May, they took out a $100,000 Mälama Loan from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to expand their inventory and meet the demand from customers looking for affordable and attractive countertop material locally. “There was high demand and low supply here,” said Dedrick.
“Without that loan, it would have been long and slow to do it on our own and we could have missed the opportunity if someone else entered the market,” Dedrick explained. “It allowed us to get ahead of the game.”
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Robert Crowell, a technical assistance specialist for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ loan programs, helped Layla Dedrick understand the type of support OHA can provide Native Hawaiian business owners. “The idea of working with OHA and having that kind of organization support our business development efforts felt great,” said Dedrick, whose Bella Pietra showroom is in OHA’s Nā Lama Kukui building. “The whole purpose of OHA is to support the Native Hawaiian community, so it felt like a good fit for our company.”
Dedrick has two pieces of advice for other Hawaiians interested in starting their own businesses. First, write a business plan – whether it’s one page or 30 – to understand what goes into starting a company. “There’s a lot more to running a business than selling your product,” she said.
Second, find at least one supportive mentor you can bounce ideas off of, who can help you ask critical questions and, hopefully, help you avoid common mistakes.