University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa alumni Jillian Corn and Hunter Long are the founders of Keep It Simple Honolulu, a retail establishment that provides high-quality zero waste, eco, health, kitchen, and beauty products with minimal packaging for a better Earth.
How did you create the concept of a zero waste store?
Hunter & Jillian: Plastic pollution is so common and we wanted to live a more sustainable life but it was difficult to do that when most things at the store are covered in plastic. We started working on this project in 2020 and had a really short amount of time to figure it all out. Our main priority is providing our local community with options that fit certain requirements. We focus on bringing in natural products because chemicals are so prevalent in today's consumer culture. Within those parameters, we also work on shipping our products in as little packaging and plastic as possible. These are products that we feel good about using on our own skin and our families. We want our customers to be able to Google the ingredients on any of the products in-store and be happy to know that they are shopping sustainably in the process.
What do you love most about your work?
Jillian: Being able to provide our community with a low waste lifestyle and meeting so many amazing people with a similar mindset of love for the earth and who are encouraged to help make a difference in the environment.
Hunter: For my entire adult life I’ve dreamed of having a fulfilling career and I knew that was going to be in Entrepreneurship. I tried a number of businesses since graduating and nothing has sung to me quite like Keep it Simple. Zero waste is something that I’m so passionate about and it feels so good to be making progress and helping people in our community learn and support them on their journey to make an impact.
What is your favorite eco-friendly product at Keep It Simple Honolulu?
Jillian: Our adorable octopus glass straws, reusable with style.
Hunter: Our liquid soap refills, 100%. I have always dreamed of having access to everyday products without the detriment of plastic packaging. Plastic is so ingrained in the supply chain that we have to make the extra effort to create a model that really makes a difference. We are so happy to create this space for the community.
If you had to describe Keep It Simple Honolulu with only three words, what three words would you choose?
Jillian: Sustainable, fun, eco-friendly.
Hunter: Local, unique, useful.
What is your fondest memory of your time at UH?
Jillian: I was a Rainbow Dancer and I always loved going to dance and cheer on the other athletes. At the games there was always such a positive environment and being able to be surrounded by this frequently had a huge impact on me and my time at UH.
Hunter: In Peter Rowan’s entrepreneurship class we had a business plan competition. I did my pitch based on the concept of this exact store. It felt like a really powerful idea and a lot of my classmates loved the concept but I ultimately got voted out. They didn’t think that people would be committed enough to take the initiative of bringing bottles from home. The concerns were valid but eight years later here we are, 7000+ bottles refilled!
How has your UH education prepared you for your career?
Jillian: UH has such a diverse group of people, so learning how to work in different environments and amongst other individuals has helped being an entrepreneur and starting a business during the pandemic. As well as many of my classes within Shidler were challenging but prepared me for what the future would hold.
Hunter: When I look back, I think the book concepts were valuable but the true gems were in the experiences that my professors shared. It’s hard to appreciate that when you’re in the middle of studying, taking tests, completing projects, and trying to maintain a life but those lessons really stick around as the years go by.