2007 SmallBiz Success Awards

2007 SmallBiz Success Awards

(page 2 of 6)


Philip Richardson CURRENT AFFAIRS

Event planning and production company Current Affairs didn’t always have that name. Founded in 1984 as International Catering Concepts, president Philip Richardson says that, initially, not enough emphasis was placed on “concepts” and too much on “catering.”

Concept, he explains, is “not just putting food on a table.”

Richardson envisioned planning every detail, from lighting to entertainment, for grand openings, company anniversaries and other events.

Current Affairs has adapted throughout its 22 years, increasing profitability while holding about 110 to 140 events annually for such clients as Bank of Hawaii and the Coca-Cola Co.

But Richardson doesn’t think of it as a formula for success. “It’s right for now. Things will change yet again,” he says.

He knows. Advice to “take control of the food” led Current Affairs to purchase a kitchen in 1999, and later open a restaurant called KeawŽ CafŽ. Richardson “loathed” the four-year experience, finding the company pulled from its passion for events to day-to-day management.

The company learned from the experience. During those years, Hawaii regional cuisine came of age, and Current Affairs formed partnerships with such chefs as Roy Yamaguchi to take care of the food.

What’s next? Richardson expects to travel with clients—not for fun, but to produce their events.

-Jolyn Okimoto Rosa



Small-business owner Harold Nagato has found a way to deal with tough issues: He sucks it up and goes with the flow. A decade ago, the president of Environmental Wastewater Management Systems Inc. invented a commercial, on-site sewage treatment system called the Environmental Sewage-Treatment Innovative System, or ESIS for short. The ESIS uses microorganisms to transform raw sewage into clean water in a 1,000-gallon, underground fiberglass tank. It is ideal for remote areas lacking septic tanks and cesspools.

Although the ESIS met federal environmental standards and qualified for state tax credits, local investors didn’t bite. They wanted to see volume. Undaunted, Nagato maxed out several credit cards and got “kokua from friends” to stay afloat. His construction business also helped to pay the bills.

Nagato’s perseverance did not go to waste. Today, the ESIS can be found on the Big Island and soon will be available on Guam, Pohnpei and on the U.S. mainland. The company employs eight full-time and eight part-time people, and sales have increased at an annual rate of 220 percent in each of the past five years. In late 2006, Nagato was anticipating more than $1 million in sales. “No matter how you start, you gotta hang in there,” he says.

-Cathy S. Cruz


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