Early in their marriage, Joe and Kristen Souza lived in Kaneoahe on the Hawaiian island of O'ahu, in a small 500-square-foot love shack. Kristen stayed home to watch their newborn son in those days, while Joe went to work as a fireman. Struggling to make ends meet, they ate simple meals like spam and rice or saimin noodles, because it's all they could afford.
Resolving to become more financially secure, in 1998 they decided to start a business crafting and selling ukuleles. Kanile`a `Ukulele was born. Today, two decades later, the multimillion-dollar company is among the top three ukulele distributors in Hawaii, says the couple on CNBC's "Blue Collar Millionaires."
Ukulele making may sound kitschy, but "make no mistake," says the show's host, "they put as much blood and sweat into their craft" as any other business.
The Souzas take pride in the sound of their instruments. Their handcrafted ukuleles are made from koa trees, a plant indigenous to Hawaii, and because of the products' meticulous construction, the brand is widely considered the "Cadillac of ukuleles," Joe tells CNBC Make It. They're even patented.