By Noelle Fujii
Friday evening was filled with joy and energy as 350 people came together to celebrate the best of small business in Hawaii.
Thirty-four honorees were recognized as part of this year’s Small Business Administration Awards and Editor’s Choice Awards pau hana celebration at the Prince Waikiki. Three of the honorees were inducted as inaugural members into the Hawaii Small Business Hall of Fame.
Thanh Lam, CEO of La Tour Bakehouse, formerly known as Ba-Le Sandwich and Bakery, was one of those inaugural members. He was previously recognized as Young Entrepreneur, Small Business Person of the Year in 2002 and National Small Business Person of the Year in the same year. He said one lesson he’s learned from being in business for 35 years is that to be successful, you have to be honest, maintain the quality of your service and products, and benefit from word of mouth. After all, he said, Hawaii is a small place where everyone knows one another.
Rolf Klein and Alvin Bongolan of Hawaii Energy Systems said they were humbled to have been chosen as SBA Small Business Persons of the Year and that their employees helped to make the company as successful as it is.
“The bottom line when we started the company was we had always been employees, not employers, and we wanted to have our employees have it better than we had, so we take really good care of our employees,” said CEO Klein. “It’s more like a family than a business.”
Juno Chung, president of Koa Pancake House and Koa Café, and his parents, Il Man and Sam Soon Chung, the founders and owners, received the Editor’s Choice Award for Long-term Success. Friday night, Juno Chung said, was a time for him to honor his parents.
“I really get happy whenever I get to recognize my parents as much as possible because they’ve flown under the radar for so long, and it’s good to acknowledge their hard work,” he said. “Without them, this (the restaurants) wouldn’t be here.”
Read profiles of all 34 honorees here.
Photography by Aaron Yoshino & David Croxford