A Hawaii born entrepreneur, Melanie Gross started her innovative aquatics systems business to plan design and maintain fresh and saltwater ponds in residential and commercial environments that coexist with fish and plants in naturalized ecosystems. Armed with a BA in Zoology from the University of Hawaii, a wealth of experience at Sea Life Park, Maui Ocean Center and Ihilani Resort’s stingray and shark encounters, she developed a holistic business plan for Wai Kai, Inc. with assistance from her CPA and an SBA loan. Gross credits SBA’s support in realizing her dream of growing an enterprise that allows her to incorporate her vision and her passion for the ocean.
Since opening in Kona, she has established more than 60 accounts and provides jobs for eight aquatic technicians, making her a significant employer among West Hawaii small businesses. Wai Kai, Inc.'s level of service is unparalleled in providing a wide array of exotic lilies and aquatic plants, select koi and a remarkable variety of other fish as stock for ponds and aquarium. The company propagates its own vegetation and uses quarantine processes for every fish to insure against the introduction of disease and parasites.
Marketing through word of mouth and direct referrals, Gross continues to grow this specialized market year over year, increasing revenues over 15% in each of the last three years and creating new opportunities in West Hawaii.
In 2014, Melanie Gross, representing Wai Kai, Inc., won the SBA Small Business Person of the Year for Hawaii County.