In early 2007 I had discovered a life changing book, Finding Your North Star by Martha Beck. At the time I was not feeling like I was living the life I was meant to live. I enjoyed the career field I was working in for over 16 years, but the people I worked with were not professional nor passionate about their work. This book came to me as though the time was right to find it, and with the “North Star” in its title it really was destiny. While reading and rereading passages in this book over the next few weeks to months, on one late evening I was jogging along the beach, reflecting on my life, specifically with work and where I was in my career. I was alone with no one around and I stopped to look over the ocean.
The sky was glittering with stars shining like diamonds, and I was immediately drawn back to my youth when as a child I would always look at the stars, planets, and Moon. I had three young children at this time, and over the prior ten years when they were all born, I had given them all star names: Orion, Magellan and Carina. We even had a young dog we named Cosmos. A voice inside me said this is what I was meant to be doing, sharing my passion for the universe with others. When I got home and over the next few months, I researched stargazing businesses as well as how to start up my own business.
I found a couple of people doing star gazing businesses on the Islands of Maui and Hawaii Islands. I contacted them and did some research on how they ran their businesses, equipment they used, and even attended their star gazing programs. In December 2007, Stars Above Hawaii was born as a dba (doing business as) under Ola Mana Ohana, LLC, which means “Inner Strength of the Working Family.” I marketed myself in the community I was living in and eventually signed a contract with a hotel in the Ko Olina Resort. I had moved into this resort in 1999. It is located on the leeward side of the Island of Oahu. The leeward side of this island is a dryer location then the rest of the island (i.e., windward side, or central area of island) and has much more clear nights per year then any other location on the island. This location is another example of situations and decisions being made, unwittingly, over the years that had been bringing me to this destination that I was beginning to awaken into and embrace. The first official year running the business in 2008 we had a very basic, but successful year. In 2009, the economy tanked due to the U.S. recession, tourism dropped, and the star show was adversely impacted with less sales and revenue compared to 2008. In my second year I was faced with thinking bigger, out of the box. I realized if I am going to survive as a business, I had to be in more than one location. By 2011, I was now providing star shows to all three hotels and time shares within the resort community that I was living in. Except for nine months between 2020 and 2021, where COVID had the business shut down for 9 months, and the 2009 recession blip, annual star shows sales have been a steady incline, with revenues since 2007 up over 1,000% in 2022 as we approach our 15th anniversary in December 2022.
As for how Stars Above Hawaii operates, when you arrive to the star show you will be greeted and meet your fellow star explorers. The star show will start off describing the night sky and how the stars move across the sky. This will be related to how the Polynesians used the stars for navigation. As we trace the Hawaii Star Lines with the use of a powerful green laser that gives the appearance of touching the stars above, the stars will be named in Hawaiian as well as other cultural languages if applicable with guests in attendance. This will be followed by the use of giant computerized telescope(s) where guests view the universe up close and personal, seeing inside the craters of the Moon to the rings of Saturn, Jupiter in color with its moons, other planets, and out into the galaxy and beyond, going through the life cycle of the stars from newborn baby star clusters to multi-colored star systems and on to the remnants of exploded stars. While the viewing takes place, additional discussions with guests take place covering any number of topics of interest with the star explorers in the group, ranging from the science behind the astronomy to other cultural understandings and mythologies around the world.
Star explorers to the star show range from ages 5 to 100, from children to teens to adults, from friends’ night out to couples’ date night and honeymooners to the elderly. The star show itself is family fun for everyone. Stars Above Hawaii also gives back to the community through charity star shows, public talks, and charity telescope gifts to schools. Giving back to the community is as equally important as running the star shows, as the activity is “edu-tainment” (educational entertainment) and it strengthens our brand name with the local community, and inspires the young to reach for the stars. Stars Above Hawaii literally transforms lives in positive motivational ways through the eyes of the stars.
Stars Above Hawaii is a specialized in-demand niche on Oahu, as the only professional world-class star show program on the island. Challenges we face are mostly external in nature, such as world economic situations that may impact tourism. Weather is also a major factor, as we are outdoors on the beach with the real Earth as our observatory. We need at least half the sky clear to enjoy the views. Weather is such a critical factor, that living as close to the star show location is important. It can be cloudy or rainy just a few miles away, yet crystal clear to run the star show at the event location. As an example, we once had a very clear starry night star show one time, when there was flash flooding going on in the central areas of the island. We also rely on our host sites that allow us to provide the star shows on their properties. Without host support, it would be very difficult to provide this activity.
The opportunities we face are as limitless as the universe itself. Over the past 15 years we have gone from a single hotel to multi-hotels for venue locations; we have gone from relying on hotels sales to their in-house guests to adding additional internet website sales from our own website, and now we have numerous travel agencies and social networks selling our star shows today as well. All “star explorers” (our guests) benefit from going to the star show, as our star shows are universal to people of all ages from all over the world. Our passion for what we do and high technology equipment also add to the star show experience taking it to a higher level of enjoyment, as many guests have repeatedly tell us.
My advice to other businesses is to find your passion and follow your bliss. My inspirational heroes beyond my parents were Carl Sagan and Joseph Campbell. Rediscover your mentors that guided your dreams and thoughts when you were young. Focus on how you can turn those dreams into reality and create that reality. Do your due diligence on what others are doing that you want to do and make a plan to achieve your goals, assessing demand for your business, location, expenses needed, and how you plan to network with other businesses that will support your business needs for success. Find a niche that makes you stand out as unique (i.e., we highlight Hawaiian Star Lines and culture to the stars, as this is where we live, and very few if any others do this).
My name is Gregory McCartney, founder of Stars Above Hawaii. I hope you enjoyed this article, as we have left many golden nuggets here to learn from, and when in the Hawaiian Islands, we hope to see you under the Stars Above Hawaii! Aloha!