Day 1: SBW Offers Cultural Insights, Business Advice
The Third Annual Maui Small Business Week opened on Monday, May 9, with a full crowd of business owners in attendance in the Nahele Room at Kahili Golf Course in Wailuku.
The event continues daily through Friday, May 13, with 21 free educational sessions.
“We were excited by the turnout and the energy in the room as entrepreneurs introduced themselves and began to build new connections across the business community,” said Volunteer Organizer Nicole Fisher.
Over a complimentary breakfast sponsored by the Hawai‘i Medical Service Association, attendees arrived and mingled until the opening ceremony began.
Event Host Grace Fung welcomed the crowd, and thanked the event’s sponsors and supporters, whose funding makes the week-long program free to all attendees.
Event Host Lori Fisher took the podium, noting that the Office of Mayor Alan Arakawa proclaimed the week of May 9-13 as “National Small Business Week” for Maui County.
“Maui County supports and joins in this national effort to help America’s small businesses do what they do best: grow their business, create jobs, and ensure that our communities remain as vibrant tomorrow as they are today,” the proclamation read.
Fisher introduced Maui Office of Economic Development Director Teena Rasmussen, and Maui County Business Resource Center Manager and Small Business Advocate Karen Arakawa, who both addressed the audience, further reinforcing the county’s support by providing on-stage encouragement for local entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Rasmussen shared advice from her 37 years as a small business owner in Kula, including practical tips on how to find and retain excellent employees.
Next, Annie Alvera of Pacific Whale Foundation spoke from the audience to acknowledge “the invaluable services that Maui Country Business Resource Center has made available to us.”
For the keynote event, emcees David Kapaku and John Hau‘oli Tomoso introduced featured speaker Kainoa Horcajo, Hawaiian cultural ambassador at the Grand Wailea and an emerging leader in the field of cultural tourism, specializing in the application of Native Hawaiian values, principles and practices to a holistic visitor experience.
Kapaku and Tomoso, both well-known as storytellers, teachers, entrepreneurs, and cultural consultants with careers in social and public service as well as the ministry, set the tone for the discussion with Horcajo by referencing the importance of Maui’s rich multicultural heritage and history.
Tomoso referenced a number of “cultural competencies” necessary for doing business on Maui, beginning with a focus on community and relationships, joking that the old adage, “It is not what you know but who you know,” is still alive and well on Maui.
This tone was reinforced in Horcajo’s remarks in his “Living Maui: Family, Friends, Career, Businesses, and Success” presentation, adding , “It is not who you know, but who knows you!”
In a spirited and thoughtful panel discussion, Horcajo spoke about kuleana and “the responsibility to give back to the community” and quantity versus quality regarding visitors to Maui.
“Maui can be a model for the rest of the world in agriculture, tourism, and intercultural community,” Horcajo said.
The panel discussion was followed by questions from the audience, ranging from Maui’s ability to handle dramatic annual visitor increases, to economic opportunity for local youth, to how the Internet distorts a sense of boundaries and “local legitimate authority” in communities.
The first two sessions following the opening ceremony focused on core skills for business success, including tips for delivering powerful business presentations, and a multi-speaker session on how to attract new business and keep current customers, understand key financial strategies and drive sustained profitability.
After the opening ceremony, former Silicon Valley Executive Lori Fisher, a local communications consultant and educator, delivered a session on creating and delivering powerful business presentations.
Fisher offered tips relevant not only to business presentations but to other communication media as well, such as informal meetings or social media postings. She focused on techniques for adapting a message to various audiences.
“A successful presentation is not about what you want to say, it is about what the audience needs or wants to hear,” said Fisher.
After lunch, O‘ahu-based Alan Pollock, Mike Hulser and Kent Untermann presented “Business Basics for the Future,” exploring topics such as how to attract new business and keep current customers, understanding the speed of change in business, key financial strategies to drive sustained profitability and the “big secret” of trust.
Pollock, Hulser and Untermann brought a wealth of business expertise to the topics, based on their executive and leadership positions with Hawaiian Tropic, Aloha Maid, Oceanic Time Warner and Hawaiian Airlines, and recognition such as “Top Turnaround Manager in the United States,” “Financial Services Champion” for the City and County of Honolulu, “Niche Retailer of the Year” for Hawai’i, “Exporter of the Year” for Hawai‘i and US West Coast and “Retail Entrepreneur of the Year” for Hawai’i.
Pollock began the session with this observation: “The more you can incorporate trust into your business, the more successful you will be.”
He explained his views on building trust internally with employees versus creating trust externally with customers. Pollock urged the audience to “set your trust barometer and watch your business grow.”
Hulser’s presentation on financial strategies for profitability covered helpful advice on leadership, metrics, budgeting and human resources. His direct observations were based on years of experience.
“What gets measured usually gets better,” Hulser said. “If your business is not working, you need to look in the mirror for the person responsible.”
Untermann concluded the session with his remarks about the speed of change in business and included discussion about the two key drivers of current business change—technology and demographics.
He referred to examples of the speed of change ranging from the Apple Watch to Tesla cars to Uber ride-sharing, concluding that the key to success is “understanding your core competency.”
Untermann also discussed phenomena such as the “omnichannel expectation” of consumers for a consistent shopping experience across both online and physical stores.
A free networking reception was held from 5 to 7 p.m.
Maui SBW is running all week, through Friday, May 13, in Central Maui.
Hāna, Lāna‘i and Moloka‘i are also hosting a day of sessions (Hāna on Tuesday, Lāna‘i and Moloka‘i on Thursday).
Registration is open and free for all days and locations; sign up online for any of the remaining sessions.
The program throughout the week includes prominent speakers from California, O‘ahu and the Maui business community.
Topics include: pricing strategies and the role of pricing in your marketing mix; 6 different kinds of crowdfunding and how each one works; honing marketing techniques such as use of effective tag lines and a polished elevator pitch; an introduction to lean techniques for product and service businesses; and improving operations and expanding a small business through focus on your business plan.
View the full program online.
With the official support of the Maui OED, Maui Business Brainstormers is leading the event again this year with an entire week devoted to educational workshops and seminars.