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Hawaii's Best Small Businesses 2013

Hawaii Business and the federal Small Business Administration honor 32 small businesses and small-business champions in Hawaii

Hawaii's Best Small Businesses 2013

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32 local companies and champions honored as some of Hawaii’s best

Each year, the Hawaii region of the federal Small Business Administration celebrates some of the state’s best small businesses and small-business advocates. Hawaii Business honored the 2013 winners at the Hawaii Business Small Business Luncheon on Feb. 28 and is proud to profile them in the following pages.

To nominate a company or champion for next year’s awards, check the September or October issue of Hawaii Business for information on the nominating process or talk to your banker.

To learn about SBA loans for small businesses, go to or ask your banker. Throughout the profiles, we note the winners who have received or been approved for an SBA loan.

More Winners

Want to learn about other great local companies? Go to to read about the winners of our SmallBiz Editor’s Choice Awards.


Small Business Persons of the Year

James Kwong and David Yogi

Yogi Kwong Engineers

Sponsor: Melitajean Racadio, Bank of Hawaii

James Kwong, left, and David Yogi.

Photo: Mark Arbeit

When the City and County of Honolulu sought a qualified geotechnical firm for the third and fourth phases of the Honolulu rail project, Yogi Kwong Engineers knew its company was not big enough to do the project alone, so it called up its biggest competitor to keep the work with local companies.

“We’ve never done this before, but because of the size of the job and the short schedule, it was a convincing argument,” says David Yogi, who, along with co-owner James Kwong, won the SBA Hawaii’s top award for 2013.

Yogi Kwong Engineers specializes in geotechnical engineering, trenchless technology (also known as microtunneling) and construction management. The company has worked on public and private projects across the state, such as the Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning project, dam inspections for the state Department of Agriculture and the Kaneohe-Kailua Wastewater Conveyance Tunnel.

Yogi and Kwong both worked at the Hawaii office of a global engineering firm before starting their own business in 2005 with equal ownership shares. “The only reason my name is first is because I’m older than him,” Yogi says with a laugh.

The company started with just the two of them, but the employee count is now up to 52. In 2009, the company started its own drilling business, YK Drilling, to do work it had previously subcontracted. That year, both companies combined earned $5.1 million in gross revenue. In 2010, gross revenue peaked at $10.3 million. Through October 2012, the companies made $8.9 million for the year.

“In spite of my efforts, the company still succeeded,” says Yogi. “... And I mean it, because I think we’ve been really blessed by God with the clients that we have, and also bringing the best and brightest engineers to work for us.” The company tithes a portion of its profits to the owners’ churches (Yogi is at New Hope Christian Fellowship and Kwong attends St. John Vianney in Kailua). In 2011, the company donated nearly $73,000. Yogi Kwong Engineers also donates to other nonprofits, including the Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii, Muscular Dystrophy Association, University of Hawaii Foundation and others.

The company recently converted to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), and the owners are informally training employees to succeed them. “We didn’t want to sell the company to a mainland firm,” Yogi says. “We wanted it to be kept local. And we could’ve made more money if we sold it, but we didn’t want that.”

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