2007 SmallBiz Success Awards

2007 SmallBiz Success Awards

(page 5 of 6)


Dr. Carlos Omphroy, surgeon
Allison Passwaters,

Since opening its doors 10 years ago, the Laser Eye Center of Hawaii has remained truly visionary. It was the first center in Hawaii to offer LASIK surgery for nearsightedness. It was the first free-standing laser center in the country. It was one of the first doctor’s offices in Hawaii to house an art gallery in which local artists could sell their work. It was the first center in the state to offer top-of-the-line Iris Registration Technology.

No wonder, then, that, in 2001, a group of 60 eye doctors in Hawaii acquired the center from its previous owner in Oklahoma, and the staff has grown from one to 13 in just a few years. No wonder the center has hit $3 million in gross annual sales and performs as many as 2,000 eye surgeries a year. No wonder it is affiliated with more than 115 eye doctors in Hawaii and across the Pacific.

Laser Eye Center of Hawaii’s collaborative model is unusual, as eye doctors in other markets are very competitive. Chief operating officer Val Ishihara says, “Each of the 115 doctors works with one of our two surgeons to provide the best possible treatments. They work well together. It’s an ohana thing you can only find in Hawaii. We’re a very cohesive group.”

-Cathy S. Cruz


Steve Gold

Steve Gold still chokes up when he recalls one of his early customers, a mother raising money for her baby’s surgery. While delivering cookies for the family fundraiser, Gold says he couldn’t help developing an emotional connection.

It’s a spirit of caring shared by Gold’s wife and business partner, Sheila. The Golds don’t just make cookies, they help schools, nonprofits and other groups design fundraisers.

The Golds bought School Kine Cookies in 1996, when the founders — two former Department of Education “cafeteria ladies” —retired. The taste of the butter cookies took Steve back to Niu Valley Middle School in the late 1950s.

The Golds shifted School Kine’s focus to fundraising, and became known for that niche. In 2005, they added a single retail customer, Costco, which sells their cornflake cookies. The Costco exposure has helped the fundraising business, which makes up more than 80 percent of sales.

In a decade, the Golds have increased School Kine’s business tenfold, but it remains a small family company. They only recently hired their first full-time employee. Their next goal is to expand beyond Hawaii.

Although fundraisers keep half the money from cookie sales, the Golds say their customers’ success gives meaning to their work. “It’s not the highest margin business we’ve ever been in,” says Steve, “but it’s the most feel-good business.”

-Colette P. Fox


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