What Does Success Look Like to You? — Michael Baskin

What Does Success Look Like to You? — Michael Baskin

Michael Baskin was born in the United States and moved to the Caribbean as a young child where his family started a small scuba diving and boutique hotel business on the island of Grenada. He later relocated to the island of Maui, Hawaii, where he completed high school at Seabury Hall and learned about Hawaiian culture. Michael studied architecture and business at both University of California Santa Cruz and Pepperdine University, where he received an MBA. In 1987 he established a design firm called Baskin Design, LLC that focuses on innovative restoration and preservation of historic small-town buildings and luxury homes. During his college years he began renovating old homes in California. He then moved back to Maui where he continued restoring older homes and began renovating dilapidated commercial buildings.  

Baskin currently focuses his work on the North Shore of Maui in a town called Paia. The town was established in the early 1920’s during the sugarcane plantation era and has a distinctive colorful beachy style. He purchased, restored, and currently operates a 16-room boutique hotel called The Paia Inn, and created a Sushi Restaurant called Vana. Additionally, he recently designed a beachfront wedding and cultural arts venue called Temple Makai and Surfclub. Baskin is currently the Director of the Paia Community Association that was formed to help support the town during Covid era. Baskin received accolades from Maui’s Main Street Board for ‘Best Interior and Exterior Renovation’ in 2007 for his design and restoration of a 35,000 sq ft commercial building called the Haiku Town Center, and in 2009 for The Paia Inn building.


How have you achieved success?

Since childhood I have had a strong work ethic. It began with my dad empowering me to handle things at a very young age. I grew up in a hotel and as young as I can remember I would sit in on meetings with staff in the restaurant kitchen and all my dad’s meetings.  Even before I was a teenager, I learned entrepreneurship by selling coconuts to tourists on the beach. As I matured, I was given more responsibility. I realized that a strong education could lead to more success. I pursued a college education following my instinct for business and my passion for design and architecture and learned how to combine these two skills.  I started my first business on a small scale with investors loaning me funds to purchase old homes that I renovated and sold for a profit. The more profits I returned to my investors, the more they wanted to invest in my projects.  I began saving my income for bigger projects until, ultimately, I was remodeling homes in high-end neighborhoods that celebrities were purchasing from me. I then used this income to begin investing in higher priced real estate markets like Maui. The idea was always to use my return on investments to reinvest in bigger projects.  Each project I embarked on, I learned how to be more cost conscious and more profitable. Also, I have found that being bilingual in California and Hawaii has been beneficial to my success as communicating fluently in Spanish has allowed me to create strong bonds with my crew.  I also was fortunate to have a small distribution company that was successful in telecommunication products for AT&T. 

Another key point to my success has been a lack of fear for taking on larger projects knowing that I could learn along the way. When I first purchased a 35,000 sq ft commercial building built in 1910 I knew I would have a lot to learn but I believed I could overcome any obstacle that came my way.  On that project I took on a partner who had experience with commercial tenant leasing so I could focus on the design work that was my forte and learn from him the legal and leasing side of the commercial business. It is important to learn as much from business associates as possible. I also hire experienced professionals such as architects, engineers, permit expediters, and accountants. Much of my success is due to my ability to select quality people and delegate responsibilities to the professionals I hire to support my projects.  


What obstacles have you overcome in the process?

I have faced numerous obstacles ranging from unexpected delays, difficulty obtaining permits, discrimination from government officials, discord with neighbors, and false information being spread about me. I have always dealt with these issues with patience and perseverance and a strong belief that I am doing good in the community. 99% of the community loves the passion and ultimate look and feel of my projects but there is always a 1% who is more vocal and trying to defeat successful people. 


What drives you to succeed?

Learning new things and absolutely refusing to fail is what drives me to succeed.  I know I may not always get things right the first time, but I learn every day and keep working on things, always seeing them through to completion and success. Aside from perseverance, I am driven to succeed by a true passion for design and elegance of building and creating beautiful spaces that can be enjoyed by the community. I’ve always had a passion for feng shui and the placement of objects, and special lighting and the overall vibe and feel that is created in both indoor and outdoor spaces. I truly love seeing people enjoying time in the spaces I design.


How has your definition of success changed over the years?

I used to measure success only in terms of entrepreneurship and building a company. Now success to me is defined by a balance of having quality time with my family, creating businesses that enhance a community, providing jobs for people, designing beautiful spaces, and having financial success.


What has success meant to you?

Success to me is creation: creating spaces, creating jobs, creating community. It’s like being an artist who sees a tangible dream come together where others enjoy it. 


Do you have advice for others on how to be successful?

My advice to others on how to be successful is to relentlessly commit to one’s goals.  Focusing on the goals EVERY SINGLE DAY is important. Having a mentor or establishing relationships with other successful people is a great way to stay on track. Never stop learning. Know that there WILL be obstacles along the way and those can be great opportunities to learn and become more prepared and more resilient. Do not let obstacles, challenges, or setbacks get you down. Stay positive. I believe a positive attitude is the most important component of success.  Although I recommend dedicating yourself to your work daily, I also advise finding a balance that incorporates relaxation, wellness, fitness, spirituality, family, friends, and fun.