2011 SmallBiz Success Awards

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Profiles by Catherine Cruz George, Gail Miyasaki and Jolyn Okimoto Rosa


Community Service

Access Information Management Hawaii: Access Information Management Hawaii’s business is records management and securely shredding confidential documents. In 2009, the company donated $38,000 to the Hawaii Food Bank and other local organizations. In 2010, Access hosted 17 free Community Shred Events, helping 2,500 people destroy sensitive materials like old tax documents. The company allows flex time to employees for volunteering, like coaching youth sports.

Ukulele Hale: Ukulele Hale owner, instructor and musician Jody Kamisato founded an outreach program, Ukes on the Loose, in 2007, the same year he opened his Kaimuki studio. More than 1,000 people have participated in the volunteer-run, traveling ukulele school, including students at public and private schools, senior citizens and hospital patients. High schools partner with elementary schools, including Kaiser High and Waimanalo’s Pope Elementary. “We use music and ukulele to communicate,” says Kamisato, who himself learned ukulele in elementary school. “If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”



Hookele Health Navigators: With aging in place so important for Hawaii’s kupuna, partners Dew-Anne Langcaon and Bonnie Castonguay put high-tech together with healthcare – in the home. Launched in 2010 on Oahu, iHealth Home transforms home healthcare delivery, accessibility and peace of mind for seniors and their caregivers, while improving quality and reducing cost. A plan to go statewide in 2011 means that checking on tutu can be just a “click” away.

Rising Sun Solar & Electric: Partners Brad Albert and Matias Besasso, who have been believers since 2003, have helped make Hawaii the nation’s leader in solar energy. They are heavily involved in energy education and policy statewide. Rising Sun is Maui’s No. 1 solar-installation company and Hawaii’s sixth largest, with clients across the state, including the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority, the Air Force, and other businesses and residents. “Customers choose us,” says Albert, “because we’re in the business of changing peoples’ minds.”


Lifetime Achievement

Becker Communications: In 1986, Ruthann Becker’s ambitious vision of public relations for her new agency meant effectively creating two-way communication between her clients and their audiences, a mutually beneficial relationship. Becker Communications, which celebrates 25 years this year, has consistently ranked among Hawaii’s top five agencies. By doing its work well, it has proven that Hawaii businesses can be marketed beyond media relations as part of a company’s all-important strategic planning.

Professional Image: When Helen Godwin took over her ailing brother-in-law’s printing and copying business in 1986, the former school administrator already knew about making due with little money; she soon discovered an innate business acumen, risk-taking skills and dedication to staff and customers. In 1987, she says she took a chance on an innovative Canon color copier, which became a “game-changer” that put her in the black. She hasn’t looked back since.


New Business

Cabinet and Stone Factory: The company is called the Cabinet and Stone Factory, but it does far more. President and CEO David S. Chang envisioned a “one-stop solution” to remodeling by offering all the services and products a customer would need, not just cabinets and counters. After opening in March 2009, Chang says, revenue for that year was nearly $1 million and hit about $2 million in 2010.

Work It Out: Work It Out helps people get active in the right – and right-fitting – gear. Owner Jeni Kaohelaulii says her custom fittings for shoes and sports bras set her apart. The merchandise at the store in Kapaa, Kauai, includes running, hiking, yoga and paddling wear for men and women, both visitors and locals. The store opened in May 2008, turned a profit that year and has had 10-percent revenue growth every year since.


Family Business

KoAloha Ukulele: In August, this company marked 15 years in business as one of the world’s top makers of high-quality, handcrafted ukulele. The company’s dozen employees – including four Okami family members – work in a Kalihi factory, where instruments are shipped to dealers in Europe, Asia and the U.S. Mainland. Founder Alvin Okami occasionally can be found in public, strumming an ukulele and singing at impromptu gatherings.

Valley Isle Gymnastics: VIG’s half-dozen staff members design and manage their own programs for children up to the age of 18. They employ creative business practices: For instance, families who cannot afford tuition negotiate barter agreements with VIG. Everyone stays informed via Facebook, e-mails and newsletters. Since its start in 2004, VIG has received numerous small-business awards for outstanding customer service and ethics.


Nonprofit 501(c)(3)

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Honolulu: Established in Hawaii in 1963 and staffed by 18, this charity pairs at-risk youth with adult role models in academic, behavioral and professional development. Economic woes in 2009 prompted board members to ax the group’s 2010 dinner and silent auction in favor of a new “Bowl for Kids’ Sake” event. The result: $290,000 was raised, up from $177,000.

Hoike Kauai Community Television: For more than 17 years, Hoike has cablecast educational and civic programs to more than 23,000 homes on Kauai. The company maintains four channels on Kauai’s cable system, works with youth groups on media-arts projects, and provides free production equipment and studio space for Kauai residents. Since 2000, Hoike has won national and regional honors for community-service programming and volunteerism.

Mental Health America of Hawaii: MHA-Hawaii relies on four employees and dozens of contractors and volunteers on Oahu and Maui to spread awareness about mental illnesses. Since 2004, foundation grants have increased from $15,000 to $197,500, and corporate gifts have grown from $10,000 to $41,600.

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