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20 For the Next 20

Twenty people to watch

(page 3 of 5)


Photo Courtesy of Kelly Hoen

Kelly Hoen, 52

General Manager,
The Royal Hawaiian

Kelly Hoen lives by three core values that sum up why she is a force for the future.

Respect: “It was the backbone of my family values. It is now my leadership guiding principle.
Without respect, I cannot serve,” she says.

Sincerity: “Listening – really listening – is how I demonstrate a true feeling of sincerity. My heart is huge and I am touched by humility.”

Passion: “My energy is abundant and my enthusiasm is real. I find excitement in watching people succeed.”

Hoen is the first wahine general manager in the iconic Royal Hawaiian Hotel’s 83-year history. She reopened the Pink Palace last year after a six-month, $60-million renovation at the height of the tourism downturn. Her vision for the Royal is to provide guests with an authentic Hawaiian experience while offering luxury accommodations.

“Kelly has done a fantastic job repositioning the hotel to lead us into a new era,” says Keith Vieira, senior vice president and director of operations for Starwood.

Vieira says Hoen is one of the best mentors the Royal has ever had and hopes she will one day replace him as the lead regional executive for Starwood. “Local leadership, especially in Hawaii’s No. 1 industry, is very important and I can see Kelly taking the reins one day,” he adds.

Under Hoen, the Royal has been involved with various community organizations such as the REHAB Hospital of the Pacific, Adult Friends for Youth and Habilitat. Hoen also serves on the boards of the Hawaii Hotel and Lodging Association and La Pietra.



Photo Courtesy of Ku Kahakalau

Ku Kahakalau, 50

Founder and president,
Kanu o ka Aina Learning Ohana

Ku Kahakalau – the daughter of a Hawaiian jazz musician – grew up in Italy, France and Germany. Yet, she always knew that she would settle in the Islands to reconnect with her local roots.

“To be whoever you are, you have to know your language, culture and traditions,” she says. “When I came home at 19 years old, I made it a point to study Hawaiian.”

Today, Kahakalau is a Native Hawaiian expert, researcher and educator and the co-founder of the Native Hawaiian Charter School Alliance.

She is most noted for establishing the Big Island-based Kanu o ka Aina Learning Ohana, an educational program rooted in Hawaiian culture, community and family.

The “womb-to-tomb” program serves thousands of people from infants to the elderly, and is the core of the Kanu o ka Aina New Century Public Charter School in Waimea.

“I’ve never known anyone to have such passion and vision,” says Taffi Wise, business manager of Kanu o ka Aina. Wise’s three children and four hanai nieces and nephews are testament to the program’s success.

Culturally driven programs are not blanket solutions. They succeed when tailored to specific communities, says Kahakalau, who has conducted extensive post-graduate studies in indigenous education. “The failure of the Hawaiian students is not the students, but the failure of the system to provide a form of education that works,” she says.



Photo: Photo: Mark Arbeit

Linh DePledge, 44

Vice president, sales and marketing,
DTRIC Insurance

Linh DePledge is committed to solving one of Hawaii’s oldest and most disastrous crises: brain drain. As such, she’s been involved with high school mentoring, served as a judge for the University of Hawaii’s business plan competition and is working with DTRIC’s human resources department to develop an outreach program for local students.

DePledge is so passionate about nurturing and retaining local talent that you’d never believe she just moved to Hawaii six years ago. She was born in Vietnam and fled at the age of 10 during the fall of Saigon in 1975. Hers was the first and only Vietnamese family at the time in Schenectady, N.Y.

“Linh is probably one of the most fearless people I know,” says Susan Ing, executive vice president and director of marketing for Bank of Hawaii. “She brings her East-Coast drive and applies it to our Island-style environment and is effective at just about everything she puts her mind to.”

In 2007, DePledge came up with the concept for the green-haired Deetric Dude to create more awareness and establish a visual tag for DTRIC. Her innovation and creativity have helped the local insurance company compete against national and international insurance giants with much deeper pockets.

“I think when people talk about ‘keeping it local,’ that should also include retaining Hawaii’s local talent,” DePledge says. “I feel very lucky for a lot of things in my life, so I hope to help others realize their potential and create opportunities for themselves right here where they live.”



Photo: Mark Arbeit

Terri Ann M.K. Motosue, 38

Managing partner,
Carlsmith Ball

The legal profession in Hawaii, as elsewhere, is undergoing dramatic changes. Big law firms today are no longer ivory towers; they’re working hard to be more engaged and better partners with their clients. As the youngest managing partner in the history of Carlsmith Ball, Hawaii’s oldest and largest law firm, Terri Ann M.K. Motosue is going to be at the center of the profession’s transformation for years to come.

In the past, according to the firm’s chairman, Karl Kobayashi, the legal profession wasn’t noted for its bedside manner. “Now, lawyers have to be good businesspeople, too, very responsive to our clients’ demands and needs,” he says. “And I think having people like Terri – people who are not just good technical lawyers, but have good people skills and can explain the law and the consequences of the law better – that will help to demystify the law a little bit.” It’s also an important part of attracting and retaining clients.

As the managing partner responsible for business development and recruitment, that’s the crux of Motosue’s job. But that doesn’t mean she’s removed from practicing law. Indeed, she still maintains a full stable of clients and continues to put together complicated real estate and financing deals. It’s this juggling of legal and business skills that makes her the epitome of the modern lawyer.

Motosue’s not blind to the advantages of her position. “If you see something that you want to change or that could be done better, you can get it done,” she says.


Hawaii Business magazine invites you to comment on our articles and the issues they raise. Comments are moderated for offensive language, commercial messages and off-topic posts and may be deleted. Some comments may be chosen for inclusion in the magazine on the Feedback page.

Old to new | New to old
Mar 8, 2010 10:31 pm
 Posted by  csapdt

Wow, a few business people mixed in with union/democrat anti-business people. Surprising from a 'business' magazine. Maybe they should be watched for the threat they represent to businesses in Hawaii.

Aug 22, 2012 08:36 am
 Posted by

If you want real information on Keiki, check out

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