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20 for the Next 20: People to Watch 2013

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Each year, Hawaii Business selects 20 emerging leaders who have already made big contributions to Hawaii and are expected to have an even greater impact over the next two decades. Let us introduce you to the Class of 2013.

Alan Joaquin

Photo: Courtesy Alan Joaquin

President: Farm Roof
Age: 38

Alan Joaquin traces his entrepreneurial spirit to his days at Kaiser High School, when he borrowed $1,457 to buy a weed wacker, leaf blower and hedge trimmer.

“I started my own business mowing lawns in Waimanalo,” he says. “Soon I got bigger projects leading to a contract to maintain the grounds at the Ihilani Spa & Resort.”

His business grew, as did his interest in environmental protection, hydro mulching and erosion control.  At age 20, Joaquin installed the vegetation at the Hualalai Four Seasons Resort golf course on Hawaii Island, and soon became a large commercial contractor earning $4 million a year in contracts. By the time he was 30, he employed 40 people and the company was unionized.

“At that point, I decided I was going to do what I wanted to do since childhood,” says the son of a U.S. Secret Service agent. “I switched gears and became a pilot.” He took off to flight school in Arizona and landed a job with Aloha Airlines.

Oddly, that career led him back to landscaping. As a Hawaiian Airlines pilot, a job he still holds today, he had a revelation.

“It dawned on me one day looking down over all these roofs I’m flying over every day,” he says. “I thought, ‘Why don’t we do urban agriculture on rooftops?’ ” He began researching the idea, inspired by a recent addition in his life.

“Alan got involved because of his newborn son. He wanted to ensure his children would have good food to eat,” says state Board of Agriculture chairman Russell Kokubun, who met him through their work on a recently installed rooftop farm at Castle Medical Center. “There are new opportunities now to grow our own food in an urban setting, and what Alan is doing really sets the pace.”

Joaquin says Farm Roof has a commercial focus since the company, technology and concept hasn’t hit the economy of scale to enter the residential market yet. He’s interested in establishing community farms on rooftops in Kakaako and will be working with Kokubun on a proposed project at the State Capitol.
His dream is to someday fly over the Islands and see many rooftop farms.

“I know it won’t happen overnight, but the biggest thing that rooftop farming brings is people get engaged and say, ‘Wow! Let’s use a rooftop to grow food.’ There’s so much potential for positive change,” he says.

Claus Hansen

Owner, Moanalua Mortuary
Co-owner/Managing Member, Affordable Casket
Age: 48

Growing up in Denmark,  Claus Hansen never dreamed of owning a mortuary.

His future undertakings began when he and a friend decided to offer a service scattering remains over Hawaii from an airplane.

He promoted the idea at mainland mortician conventions and met others in the industry. A casket exhibitor asked how to get his products to Hawaii. Hansen saw an opportunity and gradually went from casket distributor to retailer. Soon clients asked what else he could do for them, so Moanalua Mortuary was born.

“I analyzed the industry and realized there was a portion of it that was unfulfilled. There was no discount funeral home here and average prices were significantly higher than the national averages,” he explains.

Dying isn’t cheap, Hansen admits, but he has lower prices because his profit margins are smaller and his business is lean. He also purchased the old Granny Goose warehouse in Mapunapuna for his large inventory of caskets and supplies.

“I’m able to order big quantities and source from the manufacturer, so I don’t need to rely on distributors to get me products,” he says.

Hansen became a change agent for the local industry, according to his banker and long-time friend, Paul Lemcke, CEO at NAVFAC Federal Credit Union.

“Claus forced the 14 Oahu funeral homes to re-think their pricing strategy, ultimately creating better choices. From a business standpoint, it’s revolutionary when one man can come along and affect an industry that critically,” says Lemcke. “But there’s more to him than that. He has integrity and intelligence, and he chooses to use it to better our community.”

In particular, Hansen has reached out to the Micronesian community, which he says has cultural needs not served by other funeral homes.

“Their funerals are a little different. They like to have all family members and friends come to visit the family of the deceased for several evenings in a row. We’re talking about a tight-knit community, so there can be 200 to 600 people coming to visit the family when they live in a small apartment. That can become quite a disturbance for their neighbors, so we help out by offering our facility to them.”

Kulia Pacheco Boerstler

Photo: David Croxford

Associate, Baldridge & Associates
Age: 37

Kulia Pacheco Boerstler thrives on challenges and won’t take “no” for an answer.

That she started training for triathlons the week after being diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer is a testament to her self-described “hard-headedness.”

“I was diagnosed on a Thursday and the Great Aloha Run was the following Monday,” she recalls about that day two years ago. “My doctor told me if I felt OK, I could run. Since I’d been training, I decided to do it.” Ten months later, while undergoing chemoradiation treatments, Boerstler finished her first triathlon, which she had signed up to do as a relay with two co-workers.

“I got to the race and found out they weren’t going to do it since one had the flu and the other had a cold,” she says. “I thought, ‘I signed up for this,’ so I did (all three events) by myself.”

Years earlier, that same fighting spirit got her through college against the odds. She had always aspired to become an engineer, had a 3.8 GPA at Kailua High School, but her SAT scores were low. After struggling at UH-Manoa, she enrolled at Honolulu Community College and worked her way into the University of Colorado at Boulder, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering.

“The moment I left Hawaii, the intention was to come home,” she says. “I got a lot of experience working for a company in Denver, but once the work dried out, it made more sense to come back. I wanted my daughter to grow up like I did and be with family.” Boerstler landed a job with Baldridge & Associates and returned to the Islands with her husband and toddler.

Her boss, Steve Baldridge, president of Baldridge & Associates, says Boerstler isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty.

“We were shorthanded one day in our concrete-testing laboratory and Kulia volunteered to step in and help break concrete test cylinders,” says Baldridge. “No job or project is beneath her if it is in the best interests of our clients or the office.”

Boerstler continued working and training during cancer treatments, as she didn’t want the disease to impact her work.

“Work helps me through and doing things that you enjoy takes the pain away,” she says. “Through my treatment, I made sure I kept in contact with clients and co-workers. In the end, it all made me more resilient.”

Her projects include the construction administration of the Pacifica Honolulu condominium on Kapiolani Boulevard and serving as project manager for Plaza at Moanalua, an assisted-living facility near Kaiser Moanalua.

“My ultimate goal is to be able to look at the Honolulu skyline and say, ‘I had a part in that.’”

Editor's note: In the print edition of this story, Kulia Pacheco Boerstler's title is misidentified as a Senior Structural Engineer, and the Plaza at Moanalua was incorrectly named as the Project Moanalua. Hawaii Business regrets the errors.

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