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Late Bloomer

20-year career broadcast journalist reborn as savvy media entrepreneur

 Emme Tomimbang in her home office

Emme Tomimbang at her home office.

She’s best known as a longtime local journalist and television broadcaster, but Emme Tomimbang is also a veteran small-business owner, having started her own multimedia production company 15 years ago. After starting up with very little business experience, and weathering over a decade of ups and downs, Emme’s now an old pro. Here are her thoughts on small business:


On how her business came to be:

I was getting paid as a news reporter and also doing special projects and it came to be a lot of work. After 20 years of news, and getting up at 3:30 every morning, I was a little burnt out. I wanted to focus on issues and meaningful local feature stories and to develop and put time into them. So my initial idea was to do what I wanted to do, package it and sell it to the TV station.

On being a late bloomer:

I started my business in my early 40s, and I kind of thought it was a late start. And yet, at the same time, I wouldn’t have had the emotional maturity to start a business any earlier. Plus, I had 20 years of news under my belt. What I didn’t have was the business aspect. That was the part that was really hard for me. When you’ve been working for a TV station all your life, you don’t have to go buy post-its or a fax machine, or even a rubbish can.

On producing the Filipino Centennial Documentary:

That documentary was probably the most expensive project I’ve ever done. The budget was around $250,000. And it was special to me. I’ve always felt that people in local business should understand who their labor force is, whether it’s hotels, hospitals, fast food, care home operators, you name it. Filipinos are your labor force. So I felt that this documentary could help give everyone a sense of place, a sense of identity.

On managing a budget:

I like to think I’ve been very creative. I can write and put pictures together. But one of the things I’d never really done was put a budget together. I didn’t realize how expensive dreams were. I learned over the years how to cut costs, be frugal and bargain.

On family time:

In about the 10th year of our marriage, my husband [retired Judge Jim Burns] and I made a deal that we’d drive into town together from our home in Kailua and drive home together. It was a cardinal rule. So if he had meetings, I’d have to wait for him, and vice versa. And it’s lasted right up until last April, when he retired and I moved my offices to Kailua.

On the digital age:

It’s interesting that you can make contact with people now without ever having to see them face to face. Over the years you had to meet, have coffee, drinks or lunch. Now, it’s just, “Okay, email me what you have, and I’ll respond if I’m interested.” Sometimes I don’t even know what someone sounds like, but they’ll say yes to a sponsorship and we’re in business. Sometimes I can seal a contract [online] and move onto something else, it’s probably easier. But I think business is done best by relationships.

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Hawaii Business,August