KUHA'o ZANE

Hilo High School - Class of 2000

Director of Design & Marketing: Sig Zane Designs Founder: Sig on Smith

If Kuha’o Zane was your business mentor, one of the pieces of advice he may give you is to take the word “try” out of your vocabulary and replace it with the word “do.” He encourages that when you start doing what you are passionate about (with the right amount of planning, yet not getting bogged down by too much research), you’ll begin to see the effects of your ideas turned into action. Thus, getting started is how you’ll gain the experience of your first transaction. It’s how you’ll find out if your projects can escalate.

A self-described “terrible student” in intermediate and high school who graduated through correspondence courses and summer school, Kuha’o attributes his growth in math, business, and culture to the hands-on decision he made to begin designing and selling t-shirts as a teenager. Just doing it is exactly how Kuha’o approached that youthful endeavor, and it's how he continues to approach his work with Sig Zane Designs and Sig on Smith today.

Indeed, there was another crucial way in which his design and business sense was nurtured. Growing up, Kuha'o observed his father build his company, Sig Zane Designs, from its very beginnings on the Big Island. He watched and listened as his father brought Hawaiian culture and its native flora into every aspect of the company’s renowned Aloha shirt. Now, as its Director of Design and Marketing, Kuha'o continues to uphold and elevate the company's cultural backing, identity, and vision.

Recognized as one of Pacific Business News' Forty Under 40 in 2015, he spearheaded the opening of the company's Oahu shop, Sig on Smith, in Honolulu's Chinatown in 2016. His dad chose Sig Zane Designs' location in Hilo for the surf view. Why did Kuha’o choose Chinatown for Sig on Smith? For its creative community of art, retail, and food that, he says, inspires his own work.

More from Kuha’o Zane:

On persistence:

If you don’t quit, you’ll probably be successful. Don’t get hung up on mistakes, but continue to be a part of the process.

On Hilo:

In Hilo, the environment is really alive which reminds you that you’re small. Hilo sets the hierarchy of decision-making; you have to make the right choice or the environment will tell you that you have to shape up.

On culture:

Cultural integration is a concern; there needs to be more. I grew up with culture flourishing as a kid. We need to be surrounding the Hawaiian culture and other cultures around our kids. If that happens, I’m less worried about the future.