Shelley Metcalf

With their tropical license plate frames, the O'Neills help motorists take the beach wherever they go.

By Jacquelyne Froeber

Cruising the Pacific Coast Highway in San Clemente, California,Kim O'Neill spots a kitschy tropical license plate frame on thevehicle ahead. She's a modest entrepreneur, but admits that seeingher products on cars, trucks, and vans makes her feel"awesome."

Kim started Kokonuts, a beach-theme license plate framingcompany, in 2000, with a few homemade gifts for friends. She thenapproached surf shops, which began selling the frames locally;soon, they appeared on car cabooses all over town.

Today, Kokonuts items are sold online and in stores nationwide.Most recently, they caught the attention of MTV producers, whofeatured Kim's hula girl frames in the automotive makeover show"Pimp My Ride."

Her designs include hand-painted palm trees, hula girls withmoving skirts, and striped surfboards. Kim is the creative force.Her husband, Jai, helps with business and marketing when he's notbusy with his other job in sales. "Our success is due to hard work,creative minds, and a lifestyle product our family believes in,"Jai says.

Both Kim and Jai spent their childhoods by the ocean, and saytheir love for the coast helps drive the business. They met inCalifornia, then married and moved to Australia in 1997. In 2000,they moved back to San Clemente. "I couldn't stay away from myfriends and family―and I missed Mexican food," Kim says.

At home in California, Kim, Jai, and their two daughters spendevery spare moment at the shore. Summer Kai, 11, surfs with Dadwhile Kim and Keeli Sage, 3, bask in the sun and wade through thesurf.

"People think it's easy to start a business," Kim says. "But youhave to stand out." There have been a few offers to relocateKokonuts, but the O'Neills can't imagine leaving this surf town."San Clemente is home," Kim says as they pile into their green '67VW bus. With surfboards secured and seat belts fastened, Jai adds,"Money and title are less important than family and beachliving."

For more, visit kokonutsusa.com.

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