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2012 SmallBiz Success Awards

18 Hawaii small businesses are finalists for Hawaii Business magazine's SmallBiz Success Awards

(page 8 of 8)

Finalists for the 2012 Smallbiz Success Awards



Kona Red: Shaun Roberts was scouting ingredients for another of his businesses when he discovered a University of Hawaii report on the coffee cherry, the fruit in which coffee beans grow. That led him and his business partner, Steve Schorr, to conduct more than a year of research on the potent antioxidant properties of the little-known fruit of the java plant.

The result is Kona Red, a fruit juice that can be purchased in more than 400 grocery stores statewide.

“We realized we had a highly nutritious ingredient that was considered the waste product of the third-largest crop in Hawaii,” says Roberts. “Instead, we turned it into a sustainable business model.”

Visionary Industrial Insulation: “Not much was happening in insulation technology over the past 40 years,” says Ross Rolirad, VP of Visionary Industrial Insulation. “Then this new insulation came on the market and, when we tested it, we found it provided a 40 percent energy savings for high-temperature applications.”

Rolirad and his business partner, Chang Jang, discovered the new technology while working at a refinery in South Korea. Soon after, they secured the distribution rights and Visionary Industrial Insulation was born. Companies find that the insulation not only helps them save money on energy, Rolirad says, they learn that switching over helps reduce carbon emissions, too.

New Business

Hawaii Employment Services: With a dream and a loan, Sean Knox embarked on his small-business journey.

“It was a tough decision, as my wife and I had just started our family, but I just knew that the only true job security is if you can make it for yourself,” says Knox, president of Hawaii Employment Services.

His staffing agency, which has seen record growth since recently partnering with The Hawaii Group, recruits for professional positions ranging from temporary office help to CEOs. “The key to creating success is to find the right talent to support your business,” he says.

Ke Ola Magazine: “I was just exercising and realized that what the Big Island didn’t have was a magazine for people who lived here,” says Barbara Garcia, co-publisher of Ke Ola Magazine.

She told her business partner, Karen Valentine, about the idea and, 24 hours later they had their first advertising inquiry. “Within a week we created a media kit and had set a deadline for the first issue,” says Garcia.
The magazine focuses on arts, culture and sustainability on the Big Island and, three years after starting, it is a thriving 92-page, bi-monthly publication.

Family Business

Highway Inn: Highway Inn, founded in 1947 by Seiichi and Sachiko Nancy Toguchi, symbolizes three generations of family pride.

“We prepare our food with a lot of love and respect for tradition,” says Monica Toguchi, VP and the founders’ granddaughter. “It’s a core value of ours to support the sense of family, friends and community through good, consistent-tasting Hawaiian food.”

In the past decade, the Waipahu restaurant has expanded to include a general store, seafood market and catering service, and there are plans to add locations and sell products online.

Sumida Farm: Sumida Farm, the state’s largest watercress producer, has been in the same Aiea location since 1928, despite the expansions of neighboring Pearlridge Center and other shopping malls.         

“We have the best location to grow watercress, with lots of sun and natural spring water,” says David Sumida, operations manager, who took over the farm in 1982 with his sister, Barbara. Their parents, Masaru and Norma, had managed it since 1950.

The farm’s dozen workers produce more than five tons of watercress weekly on 10 acres of leased Kamehameha Schools land, Sumida says, adding that he recently signed a new, 20-year lease.

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Long-term Achievement

Leadership Works: Glenn Furuya, president and CEO of Leadership Works, has a bookshelf dedicated to binders full of testimonials and letters of gratitude spanning his company’s 30-year history.

Furuya says about 10,000 business and organization leaders across Hawaii have been trained by his seminars and leadership programs, which focus on practical, sticky and transformational leadership techniques.

“Hawaii is the perfect laboratory for studying leadership because of the blend of Eastern, Western and Polynesian cultures. I call it Island-style leadership,” says Furuya, who encourages businesses to develop effective work and leadership systems. “Systems make it possible, people make it happen and leaders are the key.”

Liliha Bakery: Liliha Bakery is a Honolulu landmark that has been selling its famous pastries and breakfasts for 61 years. Closed on Mondays but open 24 hours a day for the rest of the week, the bakery continues to thrive and revenue keeps growing.

Peter Kim, who took over ownership four years ago, attributes the company’s continued success to keeping its ear to the ground to understand what customers want. “We deliver a quality product and keep it reasonably priced,” he says.

The bakery’s most popular item? Coco puffs. More than 2 million are sold a year.

Community Service

Hui Ku Maoli Ola: Rick Barboza, co-owner of Hui Ku Maoli Ola, is a man on a mission, hoping to restore land in Hawaii with native plants. “We speak up for the plants and the animals,” says Barboza, a zoologist by training.

Located in Kaneohe, the company specializes in plant sales, habitat restoration and landscape consulting. But the company also holds lectures on native plants, and conducts field trips and guided tours. So, three years ago, the company set up a nonprofit arm dedicated to education, Papahana Kuaola.

“Early on, we realized the more outreach we provided, the better it would be for our community in the long run,” Barboza says.

MIRA Image Construction: MIRA’s business is construction work, including asphalt, brick paving, septic systems and utilities. But it also contributes money and community-service hours to many projects and organizations, including repairs to the general facilities and track at Farrington High School, MADD and the Hawaii Athletic League of Scholars’ Kalihi Gladiators.

Under president Michael Gangloff, the Honolulu-based company motto is “You name it, we do it!”

“With our A, B and C licenses, we are able to do almost any kind of project there is,” the company says.

Small Nonprofit

Hawaii Youth Symphony: Although incorporated in 1964, Hawaii Youth Symphony’s work connecting Hawaii’s youth with music dates back to a partnership begun with the Jaycees in the 1950s.

Today, the organization and its 13 employees reach across the state: HYS enrolled 727 students this year from 112 schools on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island; provided free educational concerts for more than 13,000 youth; and performed 23 concerts for a total audience exceeding 21,000. It did all that on a budget of $700,000.

As its website explains, the goal is to help young people “Learn, Perform, Grow.”

Pacific Resources for Education and Learning: In addition to its main office in Honolulu, PREL now has offices throughout the Pacific: Maui, American Samoa, the Northern Marianas, Micronesia, Guam and the Marshall Islands.

With more than 70 employees and more than $9 million in annual revenue, PREL is able to reach throughout school systems, from classroom to administration, and collaborate with governments, communities and businesses.

It partners with local educators and citizens “to make education a community affair that is culturally inclusive and relevant,” says communications director Javier Elizondo.

We extend a big mahalo to all the nominators and to this year’s judges:

Vance Roley, dean of the University of Hawaii’s Shidler College of Business, and


Jane Sawyer, district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Hawaii district office, for judging the Most Innovative and Best New Business categories.

Dwight Kealoha, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii, and


Jeanne Unemori SKOG, president and CEO of the Maui Economic Development Board, who judged the Family Business and Lifetime Achievement categories.

Gwen Yamamoto Lau, president of the Hawaii Community Reinvestment Corp., and


Lisa Maruyama, CEO of the Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations, who judged the Nonprofit and Community Service categories.


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