It’s an anomaly – a philosophy that’s counterculture to the idea that “It’s all about me.” And yet, the idea has caught a wave of enthusiasm that reaches far beyond Oahu’s North Shore in Hawaii.
The HE>i (HEgreaterthani) logo is often seen prominently displayed on T-shirts – or a car’s back window – and it takes a moment to ponder.
“People ask me, ’So how do you say this?’” says Kaimana Plemer who, with his partners, developed the logo into a thriving business. “And so then I say, ‘He is greater than I’ and it’s based on a verse in the Bible.”
How the logo became popular was serendipity – or as some might say, by the hand of God. Kaimana, a native of the beach town of Haleiwa, had bought a new Nokia phone in 2003 and wanted to customize it with a screen saver.
“I was looking for something cool, scrolling through, and the HE>i symbol jumped out at me,” the surfer remembers. “And then I thought I needed a verse to go with it, so then John 3:30 seemed perfect.”
That verse reads, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (NLT)
It wasn’t long before his buddy, Reed, noticed the “cool” logo, knew what it meant, and thought they should do more with it.
“We went to Wal-Mart,” Kaimana says smiling at the memory, “and got some white tees and black spray paint. Then we cut out the symbols in cardboard and sprayed 12 tee shirts.”
With a very humble beginning and a generous spirit, the positive faith-message was launched. All of the stenciled shirts were given to North Shore friends except one that Kaimana sent to his brother, Kainoa, who was attending Calvary Chapel Bible College in Southern California.
“They all started wearing them and then my brother got into it and started making vinyl decals,” referring to the logo stickers that started appearing on the back windows of cars.
The HE>i logo captured what the two brothers believed – and wanted to live. Both had found their faith because of a mutual boyhood friend and his family.
“If we wanted to sleep over on Saturday night,” Kaimana reflects on the rule that changed his life, “we had to go to church the next morning.”
Between Sunday school and summers at Vacation Bible School that their friend’s mom directed, the message of Christ’s love eventually became their message. In 2009 Kaimana, his brother, Kainoa, and friend Chris were officially in business with a copyrighted HE>i lifestyle brand. With time, their one store grew into two, but still in keeping with the surfing and skateboard culture synonymous with Hawaii.
“We get mega bookstores that call and want to handle distribution or wholesale accounts,” Kaimana says about growing interest in their apparel and other gear. And we’ve politely declined.”
The 28-year old businessman admits they’re not after the “quick Christian dollar,” but about allowing God to lead them in each step.
And like the “perfect wave”, the HE>i lifestyle brand has carried them farther than ever imagined. Their website reports sales across the U.S. and even globally – success to make a person proud.
But for Kaimana, it’s not all about him. It’s about He who is greater than i.
Watch for the next Light Notes about “the story behind the story” and how a “small miracle” connected me with Kaimana Plemer on Oahu’s North Shore.
If you have a story idea for Light Notes, email firstname.lastname@example.org.