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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

(page 5 of 5)


Honolulu County


Small Business Person of the Year

Patrick Sullivan

Oceanit Laboratories

Sponsor: Cindy Matsuki, Oceanit Laboratories

The it in Oceanit stands for “innovative thinking” and that’s what best describes the engineering firm’s multidimensional approach. Standing on the cutting edge of research, the company sells product licenses in areas as diverse as life sciences, aerospace engineering and information systems.

Exporter of the Year

Lyon Associates

Jim Lyon, president

Sponsor: Naomi K. Masuno, Bank of Hawaii

Lyon Associates has been offering planning, engineering and construction management services for 50 years and has worked in 50 countries. “We compete in a global market by forging alliances with local partners, operating in cultural context and maintaining a reputation for excellent work,” says Jim Lyon.

Entrepreneurial Success

Peter B.H. Kim

Yummy Korean BBQ, Lahaina Chicken Co.

Sponsor: Curtis Tom and Timothy Chang, Bank of Hawaii

Kim and his family’s success comes partly from turnarounds. “If landlords have a failed location, they will tell me, ‘We’re looking for this kind of food, can you come up with a concept?’ ” He now has 43 locations for his Yummy Restaurant Group.

Young Entrepreneur

Kristin Kato*

A Cake Life

Sponsor: Reid Hinaga, Bank of Hawaii

Kristin Kato, 28, was studying to become a lawyer, but, “I realized it wasn’t who I was,” she says. “So I signed up for a cake-design class and loved it.” She launched her business three years ago, creating unique cakes for clients’ special occasions.

Family-Owned Business

Allen Woo

Manson Products Co.

Sponsor: David Tsuda, First Hawaiian Bank

You have probably seen the Manson trucks with their apple logo. Manson Woo started the produce wholesaler in the early 1980s and, today, his son, President Allen Woo, runs the growing company with his siblings, Nancy, Alvin and Nelson.

Minority Small Business Champion

Rich Richardson

Hawaii Academy of Performing Arts

Sponsor: Stephanie Chan, Bank of Hawaii

Through his nonprofit HAPA, Richardson empowers artists. “I want to create a positive Petri dish where people can exchange ideas and resources,” he says. By establishing the Chinatown Artists Lofts and managing The ARTS at Marks Garage, Richardson helps artists pursue cultural independence.

Financial Services Champion

Frieda Takaki

Chart Rehabilitation of Hawaii Inc.

Sponsor: Keith Masuda, Central Pacific Bank

Takaki, president and CEO of Chart, credits her workers for the company’s success – and her talk isn’t cheap. All 34 employees are beneficial owners and share in the company’s profits. “Our staff is very committed and loyal and takes care of the company as their own.”



Maui County


Small Business Person of the Year

Brandon LaBonte, CEO


Sponsor: Jeanne Skog, Maui Economic Development Board

Ardent is a software development company that provides solutions to government agencies such as the federal Department of Homeland Security and the military. Since expanding to Maui from Virginia in 2010, the firm has hired close to 30 employees.

Women in Business Champion

Linda Kay Okamoto

Okamoto Realty LLC

Sponsor: Ernest Magaoay, First Hawaiian Bank

In 1967, this Missouri girl came to Lanai as a teacher. After 25 years in the classroom, she became a Realtor. “It started as a side thing, since sometimes there were no homes for sale,” she says. Now it’s full time, as she helps clients, including former students, find BUhomes and build their lives.

Minority Small Business Champion

Thomas Chou

Rainbow Tax and Financial Services

Sponsor: H. Nitahara, Bank of Hawaii

Rainbow Tax began in 2000 as an extension of Chou’s longtime financial and language help to Asian immigrants. Father of four and a speaker of that many languages, Chou says his “ohana style” leadership helped propel his company’s steady 10 percent annual growth.

Family-Owned Business

Georgia Keenan and Phoenix Dupree

Blue Ginger Café & Bakery

Sponsor: Ernest Magaoay, First Hawaiian Bank

If you’re hungry in Lanai City, chances are Blue Ginger is open. That’s the way founders Georgia and Joe Abilay intended it. Georgia’s son, Phoenix, now general manager, and his staff serve homestyle breakfast, lunch and dinner to locals and visitors alike.



Kauai County


Small Business Person of the Year

Beatrice Allen*

Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant, Fish Market and Sushi Lounge

Sponsors: Raelyn Yeomans, Kimie Lau and Marques Robinson, Bank of Hawaii

Allen acquired the restaurant and market in 2007, quickly added the sushi lounge, and recently opened a second location on Kauai’s South Shore. After surviving the recession, the business maintains a stable customer base among both locals and tourists.

Exporter of the Year

Koloa Rum Corp.

Bob Gunter, President

Sponsor: Thomas J. Canute, First Hawaiian Bank

Gunter says it best: “The response we’ve gotten from our customers, sales and distribution partners, and from awards we’ve won in independent spirits competitions across the country serve to validate the quality of our products and production processes.”

Young Entrepreneur

Colby Lopaka Ayonon

Kauai Air Conditioning & Refrigeration

Sponsor: Joyce Vidinha, First Hawaiian Bank

In 2005, this former Kapaa High School soccer star returned from Oregon’s Linfield College with a degree in applied physics. Ayonon immediately helped his family’s air-conditioning business evolve from residential maintenance to serving commercial clients. “We’re a one-stop shop, helping manage overhead, energy and water consumption,” he says.

Minority Small Business Champion

George Costa

Office of Economic Development, County of Kauai

Sponsor: Sonia Topenio, Bank of Hawaii

“Being Native Hawaiian, and born and raised on Kauai, George truly exudes the aloha spirit,” says the county’s director of communications, Beth Tokioka. Costa was pivotal in establishing the Kauai County Farm Bureau’s sustainable “Kauai Grown” program and in organizing the Kauai Marathon.



Hawaii County


Small Business Person of the Year

John and Nancy Edney

Edney and Sellers Ltd., Lalamilo Farm Partners LP

Sponsor: Keene Fujinaka, Bank of Hawaii

Established in 2005, Lalamilo Farms specializes in greenhouse produce. For the past two years, it has enjoyed annual growth of 20 percent and has added butter manufacturing. The Edneys also own the gourmet ice cream brand Tropical Dreams.

Women in Business Champion

Laura Kinoshita

Kinoshita Communications LLC

Sponsor: Nick Sutton, American Savings Bank

Kinoshita launched her communications company in 2007 to help local businesses use social Web and other media avenues. “More than 70 percent of my clients have been woman-owned or woman-managed businesses,” she says. Kinoshita also provides small loans to poor women with businesses in Asia and Eastern Europe.

Minority Small Business Champion

Kari Waldhaus

Kuliakanuu Inc. dba The Entrepreneur’s Source

Sponsor: Nick Sutton, American Savings Bank

Helping clients visualize their dreams is what Kari Waldhaus refers to as a “journey of discovery.” The business coach matches prospective business owners with franchise opportunities. “I have them explore different prospects. Part of the learning process is discovering things about themselves that they didn’t know,” she says.

Family-Owned Business

Colin Nakagawa

Seaside Restaurant

Sponsor: Arthur Taniguchi, Bank of Hawaii

Nakagawa is the grandson of the founders, Susumu and Ellen Nakagawa. The fish served at the Hilo’s restaurant are as fresh as can be because they don’t travel far: just from the main fishpond next door to the kitchen, then to the customers’ tables.

Young Entrepreneur

William Bierman

Omega Computers

Sponsor: Nick Sutton, American Savings Bank

Silicon Valley wasn’t an option when Bierman, 29, launched his computer business four years ago. “My wife, Leilani, was born and raised in Kailua-Kona, so that’s where we wanted to be,” he says. His clients range from a homeowner with one computer to a high school with 500.

Exporter of the Year

Kona Natural Soap Co.

Greg Colden and Marti Corrigan, co-owners

Sponsor: Nick Sutton, American Savings Bank

For seven years, Colden and Corrigan have insisted on using only natural ingredients and no petrochemicals. Online sales have grown each year. “It’s the quality of products we put into the soap that keeps people coming back,” says Colden.

Home-Based Business Champion

Warren Chong


Sponsor: Nick Sutton, American Savings Bank

Chong believes in connections. For three years, the local operator of LegalShield, which provides legal services, hosts a free breakfast for business owners in Kailua-Kona. “There’s nothing like a small-business owner meeting another small-business owner, exchanging cards, shaking hands and getting to know each other.” 

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