25 People for the Next 25 Years
Hawaii’s Bright People and Bright Future
Thirty-year-old developer Adam Wong has an intoxicating vision for a vibrant — and affordable — Honolulu.
Thirty-three-year-old James Koshiba dreams of a new generation of socially-conscious businesses that do as much for the community as they do their bottom lines. Native Hawaiian Kapua Sproat grew up with a deep desire to fight for her disadvantaged communty. The 33-year-old is now an environmental attorney with a clear outline for protecting the aina.
In the following pages, you will meet Adam, James and Kapua, and 22 others like them, people who give us reason to believe that the state can overcome its many challenges. Of course, there are many more than these 25 people, but our “25 for The Next 25” list, at the very least, shines a needed light on Hawaii’s vast potential.
Age: 30 | Equity Partner, Anekona Real Estate Development
Why? Adam Wong is best known around town for his successful launch of the Great Harvest franchises on Oahu. The young entrepreneur launched his first store in Kahala and in its first year, built it into one of the most successful in the Montana-based chain. He followed that with a bustling Downtown store and then helped open two more successful stores in Kailua and Aiea. Corporate, which once doubted the franchise’s suitability for Hawaii, marveled at Adam’s successful expansion. Did we mention his stores were structured to give back to the community, too?
What? Adam recently divested his last stake in Great Harvest and has turned to the development field as his next challenge. Adam says land use in Hawaii impacts everything we do and he wants to be at the forefront of addressing Hawaii’s shortcoming with forward-thinking growth and make Hawaii a vibrant place that young local professionals can afford and embrace. Amen.
When? With his track record, don’t expect to wait long for results.
Christine Camp Friedman
Age: 40 | Managing Director, Avalon Development Group
Why? Christine Camp Friedman and her family fled poverty and political unrest in Korea when she was 9 years old. She didn’t speak a word of English, but neither that nor anything else has ever held her back. Christine worked her way through college and at 32, after nine years with Castle & Cooke Properties and then A&B Properties, she founded the now robust Avalon Development Co. As impressive is the passion and success Christine has brought to her many other leadership positions in the business community, such as heading the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce.
What? Christine is a classic workaholic destined for big things. But perhaps most noteworthy, say colleagues, is that she has never taken advantage of anyone to get ahead. Her involvement in business and the community will definitely be positive and beneficial for the state.
When? Right now. Don’t expect Christine to wait one minute, scratch that, one second, if she can help Hawaii succeed.
Age: 27 | Assistant Vice President, Bank of Hawaii
Why? Kamani Kuala‘au is best known as the Kamehemeha Schools student body president whose support of President Michael Chun during the Bishop Estate scandals led him to a highly publicized clash with then trustee Lokelani Lindsey. Kamani’s current role as Assistant Vice President and Senior Trust Officer with Bank of Hawaii is a lot less controversial — the 27-year-old is responsible for developing and managing institutional investment client relationships — although he’s still got a lot of fight left in him for whatever cause he chooses to champion.
What? Following a lucrative career as a financial analyst for state and local governments on the Mainland, Kamani moved home in 2003. He’s since been feeling his way around business circles — networking, joining boards and making strategic connections. Kamani’s still in the self discovery process, but some of his long-term goals are to improve the health and wellness of Native Hawaiians, balance Hawaii’s economic development and environmental needs and start his own business.
When? If he took on a Kamehameha Schools trustee at 17, imagine what he’ll take on at 37.
Age: 33 | Principal, 3 Point Consulting
photo: Rae Huo
Why? James Koshiba heads up a bright, ambitious generation of social entrepreneurs — that is, entrepreneurs focusing on innovative solutions to societal woes. 3 Point Consulting, the company he started with business partner Andrew Aoki, is one of a kind in Hawaii. With projects that range from research and analysis to program development, 3 Point has helped dozens of businesses, nonprofits and government agencies create “public value” in what they do.
What? James has decisively led clients such as Child and Family Services and the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii, but even amongst his peers, James stands out as an unassuming, effective leader. His involvement in public-interest groups such as Kanu Hawaii and Envision Hawaii are examples of his exemplary leadership skills.
When? As more businesses hop on the social-good bandwagon, James’ expertise in public-value work will be in even higher demand.
Age: 36 | Partner, Hastings & Pleadwell
Why? Not since Patsy Mink has Hawaii seen such a tireless advocate of women’s rights. Okay, maybe we’re being a little premature. But on top of running her busy communications company and being a dedicated mother and wife, Barbra has made it her life’s mission to champion the advancement of women in the workplace and the world. Last year’s president of the Organization of Women Leaders, Barbra has also held the helm of the Junior League of Honolulu and recently joined the board of the YWCA of Honolulu.
What? At press time, Hastings & Pleadwell had just won the S.B.A. state and regional Women in Business Champion of the Year awards, and was about to find out if it took home the national title as well. So no doubt, Barbra will continue to play an important role for women in business. But she also does work on health initiatives, environmental issues and education.
When? As her 2-year-old daughter matures and develops, we expect Barbra’s efforts in social equality to grow as well.
Marci Wai‘ale‘ale Sarsona
Age: 31 | Principal, Kaneohe charter school
Why? Marci Waialeale Sarsona, a Native Hawaiian girl from Waimanalo, is the first person in her family to get a college degree, and so far, she’s gotten two: a B. Ed. and an MBA. She attended the Institute for Native Pacific Education and Culture’s program to develop Native Hawaiian teachers for the Waianae community and then ended up joining the institute and developing a powerful educational program for Pre-K kids not able to get schooling. The institute was so impressed with her, they made her the executive director before she hit 30.
What? Marci is everything you want in a young leader. She’s smart, passionate and pragmatic. It was no surprise when she was plucked to head Ke Kula ‘o Samuel M. Kamakau Laboratory Public Charter School, a K-12 charter immersion school in Kaneohe. As she gains more experience, she will only become a more powerful advocate and force for our keiki.
When? We will defer to Marci’s supporters who say we would do well one day if Marci headed all of our public schools.
Age: 18 | Student, Punahou School
Why? Last May, River Kim helped put on the third annual Malama Jam, a benefit concert he founded in 2004 to raise funds for various local charities. This time around, however, River decided to scale the concert down a little, on account of his increasingly busy schedule, which included schoolwork, band rehearsals, football and basketball practice and, oh yeah, applying to colleges. Currently a senior at Punahou School, River was just 14 years old when he decided to use Christmas money from his parents to start Malama Jam. To date, the concerts have netted more than $60,000.
What? River Kim’s an all-state, all-purpose football player, but his top college choices (Yale, Tufts, Princeton, Harvard) are all academic powers, not football ones. An Ivy League education, coupled with his desire to serve others will surely put River at the forefront of Hawaii’s next generation of social entrepreneurs.
When? Graduation first. Big things, second.
Age: 34 | Politician
Why? Brian Schatz is bright, pragmatic and eager to serve. He was elected as a state representative when he was just 26, making him one of the youngest House members in the state’s history. His record, over eight years in the House, reflects a feisty environmental crusader and stalwart proponent of economic diversification. Brian has also made a name for himself taking on some longtime Democratic Party leaders. His calls for open government and pragmatic decision making are admirable.
What? While his run for Congress failed this past year, it probably just came a little early. His positions on issues such as the environment will resonate more and more with each new generation of voters. Expect Brian to be a central public figure in Hawaii’s struggle for long-term sustainability.
When? We’re pretty sure Vegas isn’t taking odds on this one yet, but our bet is Schatz for governor in 2018.
Age: 44 | CFO, Pacific American Foundation
Why? Since graduating from the UH College of Business, Louis Perez has been actively trying to turn the school into a breeding ground for financial wizards specializing in Asian markets. He’s so far brought in new technologies, fostered strategic relationships with international finance firms and even drafted legislation to further his cause. But he’s throwing the most weight behind a project called the AKAMAI Initiative, which he helped create during grad school. AKAMAI aims to develop the Asia-focused finance industry in Hawaii and, concurrently, to establish Hawaii as the predominant place to groom workers for the industry.
What? Louis’ vision of Hawaii is that of a major capital market serving Asia-focused hedge funds. He sees Hawaii as the ideal spot in the U.S. to develop an educational program specifically geared toward training world-class talent to serve that niche. With Louis’ drive and intensity, we’re guessing he’ll continue to play a major role in making it happen.
When? With the continued rise in activity and interest in Asian markets, we expect to see a bronzed statue of Louis on campus by the end of the decade.
Age: 33 | Of-Counsel, Earth Justice
photo: Rae Huo
Why? Kapua Sproat grew up in an active, community-minded family with strong Hawaiian roots on Kauai’s North Shore. The Sproats often banded with other local families to fight the rapid, poorly planned development occurring in their backyards. But Kapua soon realized that their passion and commitment, no matter how strong, was no match for the tough legal eagles they encountered in court. So the young elementary school student decided to one day become a lawyer. Today, as counsel for the environmental legal group Earth Justice, Kapua has litigated cases involving everything from the Clean Water Act to Hawaii’s endangered species laws.
What? This year, in addition to Earth Justice, Kapua will join the staff of the University of Hawaii’s Environmental Law Program. It is her hope that, through teaching, she might inspire the next generation of environmental and cultural stewards.
When? Fighting the good fight since “small-kid days,” Kapua still has a lifetime of planet saving to go.
Age: 37 | President, WCIT Architecture
Why? Rob Iopa and three colleagues started WCIT Architecture out of their living rooms. But that arrangement didn’t last long. In its brief five-year history, the company has grown into one of the state’s largest firms with 45 professionals and clients all over the world. The firm’s goal is to create a unique architecture that reflects the special sense of place in Hawaii. It’s working. Under Rob’s direction, the company has hauled in a dizzying number of Hawaii’s major hospitality projects.
What? Rob is an astute businessman, but his creative talent is what makes him special. The Big Island native was raised on Hawaii’s land and sea and his designs recognize and assimilate the natural beauty and harmony that make Hawaii special. His firm’s designs are out of the box and flat-out inspiring.
When? Rob’s success in Hawaii is already clear, but his biggest triumph is yet to come as he increasingly turns his Island-born creativity into an export commodity and helps pave the way for Hawaii’s new, diversified economy.
Age: 36 | State Representative
photo: Rae Huo
Why? Maile Shimabukuro never planned on being a politican. But when the Democrats asked her to run for the state House seat in her hometown, District 45 (Waianae, Makaha, Makua), the former attorney thought it’d be an opportunity to do something good for Oahu’s west-side communities. In her four years as a rep, Maile’s gained a reputation as a sharp up-and-comer, one whose votes are guided by her values and principals. Not everything she does is popular and praised: She’s introduced some pretty progressive housing bills even as a freshman legislator — but then again, she represents a district with one of the highest homeless rates in the state.
What? They say power is having a good idea and having it heard. Maile has tons of good ideas, many aimed at addressing the state’s affordable housing crisis. This year, as chair of the human services and housing committee, she’ll be heard loud and clear.
When? Maile’s committee chairmanship this year is her first real opportunity to shine, but it definitely won’t be her last.
Age: 33 | President, CEO Hoku Scientific
Why? At 33, Dustin Shindo’s resume already includes founding three companies. There is Mehana Brewing Company, billed as the largest locally owned brewing company in Hawaii. There is Activitymax, an Internet-based applications provider, later bought by Tickets Plus. Then there is the most impressive, Hoku Scientific, first started as a fuel cell development company and recently expanded into solar-energy technologies. Hoku went public in 2005. Its most recent developments include a massive solar materials contract landed with Sanyo and plans to build a factory in Idaho.
What? Dustin is a humble kid out of Hilo with enormous vision and the impact of his success with Hoku alone will be key for venture capitalists considering investing in Hawaii start ups. But even more important, Dustin is and will continue to be an inspiration for the next generation of savvy, scientific entrepreneurs that Hawaii can grow innovative companies.
When? To say Dustin is going places is old news. He’s arrived and his ingenuity will help Hawaii flourish for years to come.
Age: 38 | Executive Assistant to the Mayor, County of Hawaii
Why? Billy Kenoi’s current boss and childhood coach, Big Island Mayor Harry Kim, says: “Billy’s always been really smart, but also very rascal. He’s overcome a lot to get where he is.” After nearly flunking high school and coming this close to jail time as a wayward teenager, Billy made the mother of all comebacks. He graduated from U.H. law school and became a big-shot public defender on Oahu. In 2001, Kim summoned Billy back home to serve as his executive assistant.
What? With the gift of gab and a real knack for collaboration, Billy’s spearheaded some of the county’s toughest projects, from health care reform to drug control. Some say he’ll be the next Big Island mayor, some say future governor. Kim says, “I just really hope he will continue in public service.”
When? We can’t guarantee he’ll run, but when and if he does, we’ve got his slogan ready: No be silly, vote for Billy. We give Billy until 2008 (when Kim’s second term ends) to think about it.
Cheryl Kauhane Lupenui
Age: 41 | CEO, YWCA Oahu
Why? Cheryl Kauhane Lupenui could be making a lot more money. After receiving her MBA from Tulane, the sharp and driven Cheryl had opportunities aplenty in salary brackets that could have made life real easy. Cheryl instead became the youngest chief executive officer ever of the YWCA of Oahu and the first Native Hawaiian to head that organization. Cheryl is using her business acumen and community passion to invigorate the nonprofit’s mission of empowering women and eliminating racism. Her work outside the YWCA, particularly on behalf of Native Hawaiians, is as exemplary.
What? Cheryl’s definition of leadership is simply being able to change the conversation. She sees strength in the ability to get people to envision a better way and infecting them with your passion. Cheryl will no doubt be doing this far beyond the YWCA.
When? In 25 years, Cheryl will be 66, and knowing her drive, she will be about mid-career. Cheryl’s impact on Hawaii will only continue to increase year after year.
Age: 40 | Columnist, The Honolulu Advertiser
Why? The witty, clever and oh-so-local Lee Cataluna is Hawaii’s most trusted and likable columnist. Whether she’s warmly reminiscing about the ladies selling pickled mango on the North Shore or drenching a new legislative bill with her not-so-subtle sarcasm, Lee draws in readers like Waikiki does surfers. And while many of her columns touch on controversial, hot-button issues, some of her most provocative work revolves around ordinary local people living life the best way they know how.
What? Sure, Lee is an award-winning, critically acclaimed playwright and author. But we suspect, over the next 25 years, it’ll be Lee’s columns in “The Honolulu Advertiser” — written for and about local people — that will continue to drive insightful discussions at dinner tables and watercoolers throughout Hawaii.
When? Every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, until, heaven forbid, Lee decides to call it quits.
Bert “BJ” Kobayashi
Age: 36 | President & CEO, The Kobayashi Group
photo: Rae Huo
Why? He may be the namesake of a prominent local businessman, but this Bert’s not riding on anyone’s coattails. Since taking the helm of his family’s development firm, The Kobayashi Group, seven years ago, BJ’s overseen hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate transactions, earning himself a reputation as a shrewd businessman. In addition, he’s well-educated, with degrees from Georgetown University’s business and law programs, and is a big supporter of local nonprofits.
What? No doubt real estate will remain BJ’s primary domain. But he’s proven to be a strong player in government and community circles as well, in part because of his charismatic personality. As one seasoned local businessman put it, “BJ’s got a real great way about him.” And in this town, that can make all the difference.
When? BJ’s been handling some of the Islands’ biggest development projects for years. And if the stunning high-rise Hokua is any indication, we can continue to expect big things from BJ far into the future.
Age: 17 | Screenwriter/ Filmmaker
photo: Rae Huo
Why? At 17, Taylour Chang, a Punahou senior, had two films accepted in the 2006 Hawaii International Film Festival. And she wrote and directed both films — a documentary and a short film — over her summer vacation. (Kids today.) The subject of her films was local, obscure and thought provoking: the internment of Germans in the Islands during World War II. The short film made it past the student category and was accepted in the Hawaii Panorama category. Film organizers marveled at the storytelling ability in someone so young.
What? Taylour is a symbol of hope for Hawaii’s push for economic innovation and diversification. She has the raw talent, curiosity and drive to become a great filmmaker, and give a Hawaii a major boost in realizing its dream of a new economy. Besides that, Taylour could finally get the Hawaii story right in the Mainstream Media. Eh, who knows, maybe she can even fix Hollywood pidgin.
When? While she still needs to go to college, let alone start a film career, Taylour is already inspiring Hawaii’s next generation of innovators. Next stop, Yale.
R. Scott Simon
Age: 36 | Associate General Counsel, Hawaiian Electric Co.
Why? R. Scott Simon is the guy your mother meets and then asks you things like, “Why can’t you be more like him? Why didn’t you marry someone more like him?” Scott is well-educated, both a civil engineer and an attorney, and an accomplished professional, including a stint with local law firm Watanabe Ing & Komeiji. Scott is also a devout family man and a dedicated community volunteer, helping lead groups such as Hawaii Literacy and the Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii. Word has it, he can even sing. Scott is the all-Hawaiian guy with Hawaii at the heart of everything he does.
What? All that aside, his greatest attribute is his ability to lead, quietly, collaboratively and passionately. His impact? The sky is the limit. His professional abilities and community spirit make for a powerful two-punch that Hawaii needs.
When? Scott could wake up tomorrow and make even bigger things happen, on top of his already noteworthy doings. And eh, Mufi, he might sing better than you.
Age: 40 | Director, Trust for Public Land, Hawaii Program
Why? At Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing, Lea Hong carved out a niche for herself by deftly handling environmental and cultural issues. She made a name for herself, too, by handling a hefty plate of pro bono work, including winning a landmark case against the University of Hawaii on its Mauna Kea plans. Lea is a girl from Wahiawa who puts community first and her recent departure from a high paying job to head the Trust for Public Land in Hawaii is only more proof of that spirit.
What? Lea is an attorney who knows when to fight and how to win. But more importantly, Lea also knows how to mediate. She understands how business works and understands how to broker deals in a way everyone benefits. She’s a person who can rise above the scuffles that have stalled many movements in Hawaii over the years.
When? Check the paper, Lea probably did something again today to save the Earth.
Age: 30 | President, Pau Spam
Why? Ho‘ala Greevy first applied his tech skills in Silicon Valley at the height of the Internet boom, but he really defined them locally at the age of 24, when he created Pau Spam, one of the earliest locally owned spam and virus filtering companies. The consummate “serial entrepreneur,” Ho‘ala today owns six different businesses, ranging from investments to alternative energy, and dabbles in real estate on the side.
What? Ho‘ala is a proud McKinley High graduate with big — make that, giant — ambitions. Aside from retiring his parents (a goal he says is near completion), he’d like to build a multi-million dollar conglomerate and create a modern-day Native Hawaiian trust, akin to the old ali‘i trusts. Word on the street is, after extensively campaigning for Sen. Daniel Akaka last election, he’s also got political aspirations.
When? Sure, Ho‘ala’s goals are lofty. But at just 30 years old, time and energy are on his side.
Age: 34 | President, Loyalty Enterprises Ltd.
Why? Cathy Luke is, if not already, sure to be among the most powerful women in local finance. Aside from her notable pedigree (Cathy’s grandfather is Hawaii National Bank founder K.J. Luke, her father is K.J.’s son, Warren), she’s got an Ivy-League education, Mainland work experience and an unrivaled commitment to do the best she can for her clients. Last fall, at the invitation of the bank’s president, Cathy joined the advisory council of the San Francisco Federal Reserve — the largest federal district in the nation.
What? Unlike her father and grandfather, who are best known for their work in traditional banking fields, Cathy’s biggest impact will probably be on investments and developments. In particular, Loyalty Enterprises specializes in commercial real estate services.
When? Cathy’s been moving and shaking. But most of her deals are done behind the scenes. That’s because this rising star keeps about as low pro as anyone you’ve never laid eyes on.
Age: 42 | Vice Chairman and Chief Banking Officer, Bank of Hawaii
Why? Peter Ho’s rise through Bank of Hawaii was without question meteoric. In many ways, he broke the mold in Hawaii where top executive positions went only to people with years and years of service. Many were surprised, but he has since received praise from all sectors on his intellectual range, fearless attack on issues and impressive slate of solutions. In addition, there’s Peter’s heartfelt and sustained dedication to community development through the nonprofit arena.
What? Peter could be equally successful in financial centers like New York and Hong Kong, but he makes Hawaii his home and is destined to be a major player in its economic future. Expect to see his charitable works flourish as well.
When? Peter has certainly already made a major name for himself in town, but our prediction, which by no means takes us out on a limb, is that Peter is heir apparent to head Bank of Hawaii.
Age: 60 | Chancellor, University of Hawaii, West Oahu
Why? Now 60, Gene Awakuni perhaps will not be a dominant force in te education field for 25 more years. OK, definitely not. But as the mastermind of the University of Hawaii, West Oahu campus, his impact will be felt, if successful, for years and years to come. Gene, a Hawaii native, comes back to Hawaii most recently from Stanford, where he was vice provost of students affairs and received rave reviews for his work revitalizing campus life.
What? The plan is to build a campus that can host upwards of 7,500 students on about 214 acres. Another 287 acres would be sold to a private home developer to fund the development of a master-planned modern campus that could finally pump some vibrancy, both economic and social, into Oahu’s languishing Second City.
When? Gene’s No. 1 task is to get the Legislature to pony up seed money for the West Oahu campus. If he succeeds, his legacy will last well beyond 25 years.
Age: 35 | COO, ChipIn
Why? Olin Lagon is a master at combining his tech smarts and entrepreneurial instincts to build communities. As a Peace Corps volunteer, Olin helped disadvantaged Russian students start a business online. In Hawaii, he co-founded a little information-management company called WorldPoint, as well as a community-owned startup that provides computer training and jobs for Native Hawaiians. His latest venture, ChipIn, an online money-tracking service is his most ambitious project to date, and it’s got the management team to go the distance.
What? ChipIn could be Hawaii’s Google. But Olin’s greatest passion is community development, and we’re guessing that’s where he’ll leave his biggest mark.
When? Olin’s contributions to Hawaii can already be found throughout the island chain — and he’s only exhausted about 20 percent of his “great idea” supply.
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