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The Hawaii Business 20 for the Next 20

(page 4 of 21)

    Photo: Mark Arbeit

Kalei Cadinha-Puaa, age 41

President and COO, Cadinha & Co. LLC

Kalei Cadinha-Puaa lives by a credo: “Run hard, play hard, do everything hard. Life is short and you have plenty of time to rest after.”

By running Cadinha & Co., one of Hawaii’s oldest registered investment advisory firms, she’s carrying on a family tradition, but doing it her way. And that includes grit and thinking big. A case in point: After her father sold the family business, she and another executive, Neil Rose, started their own firm. That risky move prompted the senior Cadinha to buy his company back, then merge it with the new firm. Fully local again, Cadinha & Co. has grown assets under management by 20 percent.

Before coming back to the family business, Cadinha-Puaa taught in San Diego and Hawaii, and explored a career in physical therapy and pre-med, before getting her degree in business management. “It’s fine that you don’t know what you want to be,” she tells young people, including her own children. “I’m a planner but also a ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ girl. But to do that you have to have confidence. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t know I was going to be OK, despite the 99-cent mac and cheese (dinners) and rotating bills.”

Along the way, she married and moved to American Samoa with her husband, and developed grant-writing skills to help that territory. She brought in more than $10 million for schools, dislocated workers, veterans and others, much of it in the wake of the September 2009 tsunami.

She volunteers at Kaimuki Christian Church and Kokua Foundation, created a college curriculum called Financial Literacy Today, and talks to college-bound students about budgeting, debt and other financial issues.

A member of the volleyball team at the University of San Diego, Cadinha-Puaa is now the mother of three active, sports-minded children. Her two oldest daughters play volleyball and Cadinha-Puaa chaperones team clinics, which can mean sleeping on the gym floor along with the team. “I want to live it and be part of it, not just show up for the games.”


1. Randy Baldemor
2. James Bennett
3. Kalei Cadinha-Puaa
4. Kainoa Daines
5. Matthew Delaney
6. Mark Duda
7. Charles Hew-Len
8. Michael Kaleikini
9. Daniel Leuck
10. Jennifer Li Dotson
11. Bryan Luke
12. Wesley Machida
13. Makani Maeva
14. Cameron Nekota
15. Robert Piper
16. Carol Reimann
17. Claire Sullivan
18. Michael Tresler
19. Raymond Vara, Jr.
20. Aulani Wilhelm

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