The Self-Storage Hawaii unConference: A Gathering Like No Other In A Place Like No Other

Posted by Christina Alvino on Apr 26, 2022 12:00:00 AM

The 2021 Self-Storage Hawaii unConference took place in October of 2021 on the Big Island of Hawaii. Our host hotel was the beautiful Marriott Waikoloa beach resort and spa, which has lovely pools and a beautiful beach in a shallow calm bay. It’s just a lovely place. We’ll be there again in 2022 from Oct. 17 to 21. We have some amazing hotel rates that you can take advantage of for several days before and after the event, so you and your loved ones can take in the beauty of the Big Island and collect some of the Aloha Spirit.

We had people join us from many states in the U.S. Because of COVID, unfortunately, we could not have international guests join us. And because of COVID, we were limited to the number of attendees by the COVID prevention rules that the county of Hawaii had in place. But nonetheless, we had a fantastic time because of a few things. This year, there are very few COVID precautions in place, and we hope it will stay that way.

Great Opportunities
The unConference is set up to create lots of great opportunities for solid networking, making new contacts, catching up with old friends, and enjoying activities you’d probably never have a chance to do otherwise. We also have some great content, curated by some very smart and very kind people.

We started the 2021 unConference off with a tour to the visitor center on Maunaloa mountain, which is not quite all the way to the top, to view the night sky.

Our timing was a little bit off, because there was almost a full moon, so it was a little hard to do stargazing. But I have good news for 2022: It should be a fairly dark night for our stargazing adventure for the 2022 unConference. It will be just amazing to see the sky there. The Big Island of Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to view the night sky.

That’s part of the reason why there are so many observatories on the island. At the height of the visitors center you are above the clouds, and it’s like you can reach out and touch the stars. That’s the wonderful way we’ll get started again for 2022.

We also had a snorkel cruise before all of the sessions got underway, and this is just a wonderful thing to do. We go out on a larger catamaran boat to some great snorkeling spots and have a chance to spend a good solid hour in the water, looking around and seeing what’s happening in the coral. On the 2021 snorkel cruise, my wife and I thought we saw a big band of yellow seaweed. I thought to myself that that didn’t make much sense.

I didn’t know that seaweed came in that color. And as we got closer, we discovered it was a school of Yellow Tangs all entangled with each other so that from a distance it looked like a kelp field. It was quite amazing and a beautiful sight. It’s not unusual to see turtles and all kinds of other fish that live in the area. Plus, you get to enjoy a nice boat ride with your storage friends. It is a lovely experience and a great networking opportunity.

We also had a tour to go down to the volcanoes. The active volcano on the big island, Kilauea, is an interesting volcano. It is very slow erupting and something that’s fairly easy to go see. We were lucky in 2021; it was spitting lava down in the caldera, and from the observation area at the Volcano House Hotel you could see the caldera glowing at night. We’ll go look at the volcano again in 2022 and see what it’s doing.

Showing Support
One of the great things about having the trip to gaze at the stars and the trip to go to the volcano is that Mike Richards, the director of Science Camps of America, leads those tours. Science Camps of America is one of the not-for-profits that the Self-Storage Hawaii unConference supports. Science Camps of America brings together kids from all over the place to the Big Island each summer for a summer camp that is all about land science, air science, sea science, and more. They do some amazing field work and study some of the naturally occurring amazing things on the Big Island. For those of you who are a little bit familiar with the Big Island, you know that it has almost every weather zone in the world on this one island. It’s just amazing. It also has amazing plant life and wildlife, much of it is native only to the Hawaiian islands. It’s a beautiful place to have a camp for high school aged kids, where they can not only experience the beauty of the Big Island but also the amazing science that can be done around the Big Island.

We support other nonprofits through the Self-Storage Hawaii unConference as well. One of those is Kure It, the cancer research funding organization that was started by Barry Hoeven many years ago. He contracted a type of cancer that was not getting much research dollars and people did not know a whole lot about it. In researching his own situation, he found that there were all sorts of cancers that were having a negative impact on many people, but because they weren’t the well-known cancers, they were getting very little research funding. So he put together Kure It as a way to address that situation. I became friends with Barry Hoeven many years ago. At one of the self-storage trade shows I mentioned to him that I wanted to do an unconference type event on the Big Island. I had no idea he had a home on the Big Island, and he said, “Hey, I would love to help support that.” At the first Self-Storage Hawaii unConference in 2009, we did our first fundraising event for Kure It. Our Opening Reception in 2022 will be a fundraiser and a chance to focus on Kure It. I realize fundraising is done a little bit differently now than it used to be in 2009. People still brought checks with them to fundraisers then.

Now I would encourage all of you to set up your recurring online donations to Kure It. I would encourage all of you to sign up for Kure It’s round up program, where you can just round up your rent for tenants. And there are many other ways that you can support Kure It. I would not stop you from bringing a big check along to the opening reception though.

One of the other not-for-profits that we support at the unConference is the Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests. Danny Akaka Jr has been a supporter of our unConference since really the very beginning. We first met him at the Mauna Lani resort where we did the first two Self-Storage Hawaii unConferences. He is the head of the cultural center there. His work, his avocation, and his passion all revolve around promoting the Hawaiian culture, history, and language. He has done some amazing things over the years, and we’ve been fortunate enough to have him come talk to us about the amazing people and the amazing places of Hawaii at each of the unConferences. We hope to have him back again in 2022, if his busy schedule allows for that.

He’s on the board of the Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests. The foundation encourages and promotes the care and protection of native trees and native forests in tropical areas. The Ohia tree in Hawaii is a very special native tree that is having trouble with climate change and invasive species. The foundation is trying to carve out areas where the tree can thrive and take its place in the natural scheme of things. They’re also working on promoting and improving the condition of the Koa tree, which is a really fast growing tree that’s only found in Hawaii. If any of you have ever bought any wooden gifts from Hawaii, a lot of those were probably Koa wood. It’s an amazing wood used in everything from ukuleles to furniture.

Networking Galore
Now, of course, one of the main reasons for getting together at the Self-Storage Hawaii unConference is the networking. In 2022, we’ll have even more networking opportunities. Last year we did a luau together, which was a lot of fun. We will have luaus available again in 2022. There will be two opportunities to attend the luau on the Marriott grounds. They do luaus every Monday and Wednesday evening. If you have not been to a luau, it’s a lot of fun. It is a great celebration of the Hawaiian and Polynesian foods, cultures, music, and dance.

In 2022, we’ll also have a new way of doing breakfasts together. Each of our experts in residence (that’s what we call our presenters and our knowledge base experts) will host a breakfast round table on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Attendees will be able to have breakfast with one of the experts in residence and receive a $25 voucher towards breakfast. We’re going to add a second reception in 2022 as well. We’ll have an additional reception Thursday night, so we can get back together again with everyone who was at the opening reception Tuesday night to share stories of some of the adventures we’ve had on the Big Island and talk more about the issues that concern us while we get to know our new friends better and have a chance to reconnect with our old friends.

Some people will go for bike rides, play golf, swim with sharks, relax on the beach, enjoy a sunset cruise, float in the pools, read in their cabanas, and explore the many unique parts of the island. There will be a lot of great stories to share.

If all of this is not enough, our morning sessions bring fascinating and illuminating conversations about the issues of the day. In 2021 we talked about future-proofing our businesses, examined the rise of China as a competitor, talked through the latest website design and function trends, shared best practices in remote management, explored ways to make sure our site audits are done well, and gained insights into how and why people buy online, as well as the power of making sustainability a core corporate pillar. We are switching up our presentation/discussion format this year to make it even more un-conferencey and stimulate even more conversations.

The Self-Storage Hawaii unConference attendees make up a wonderful and close kindred group. I hope you will have the chance to join us and see what sort of special connections you can make and what valuable business takeaways you bring home.

To join us, use the coupon code “ministoragemessenger” when you register and save $100 off the cost of the full registration package.

I hope to see you on the Big Island!