The Best of Small Business: SBA Awards and SmallBiz Editor’s Choice Awards 2017

Two dozen local companies and business leaders who won this year's Hawaiʻi district awards from the federal Small Business Administration (SBA). Hawaii Business also recognizes our Editor's Choice Winners for 2017.




President: Kathryn Inkinen

Photo by David Croxford.

Photo by David Croxford.

Sponsor: Nedy Pia Directo, First Hawaiian Bank

Before starting Inkinen and Associates, Kathy Inkinen worked in human resources at a bank for 15 years and a hotel for nine. During that time, she watched the companies’ leadership and noticed people often started on a career path in a company and then didn’t move much. The result was stagnation both for the individual and the company.

Inkinen realized companies needed more diverse management teams to fully thrive, but had difficulty finding those people. So she started an executive search firm that would be the intermediary between companies and candidates.
“That’s really our mission,” she says. “We help companies grow by introducing them to better human assets and help candidates build their careers.”

Over the past 25 years, Inkinen and her team have facilitated more than 1,000 placements. The key is personal relationships, understanding each company’s culture and drawing on her years of experience. Most clients are small businesses that don’t have the internal structure to build a career ladder and about 80 percent of the candidates she places are from Hawaii.

She also helps nonprofits find board members or directors. She’s currently seeking candidates for the Hawaii Community Foundation, Kamehameha Schools, Molokai Community Center and the Lunalilo Home trust.

Joe Martyak, VP of communications for Hawaii Community Foundation, says that HCF leadership knew Inkinen’s reputation and were confident she could find the best fit for their organization. “We are working with Kathy Inkinen because of her excellent reputation and superlative skills for finding the right person for the right position,” Martyak says.

When Inkinen started the firm in 1992, placing women in executive roles was a challenge, but today she says employers are much more open to women being in upper management. In a recent search for an operations manager for a construction company, the owner specifically told Inkinen not to limit the search to men.

“Girls have a lot more opportunity in business today than they ever have had,” Inkinen says.

As an entrepreneur and executive herself, Inkinen’s advice to young businesswomen is to remember there are no limits. “I would say for women: Your destiny is in your own hands as an entrepreneur. You can make it, but the buck stops with you. You have to be responsible for your employees and your clients, but, if you’re successful, that’s kudos for you because you’ve done it,” she says.

– Alexander Deedy

Categories: Lists & Awards, SBA Awards, Small Biz Editor’s Choice Awards, Small Business

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