Maui Business

Maui’s 1st Ever Hawai‘i Small Business Conference Attracts 200

May 5, 2017, 9:15 AM HST
* Updated May 5, 3:09 PM
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Petra Marquart moderated a Case Study with Karen Christenson (VP of Mama’s Fish House), Aric Nakashima (Co-Owner of Pukalani Superette) and Cathy Nobriga Kim (President & GM of Maui Ice & Soda Works).

The first-ever Hawaiʻi Small Business Conference held this week attracted an estimated 200 participants and drove home the message that small businesses need to “design” a firm business foundation, “protect” their hard earned investments and “engage” their customers.

The two-day event, on May 3-4, was presented by the County of Maui and the Maui Economic Development Board and featured national and local experts on customer service, marketing, data security, risk management, tax strategies and human resources to help small businesses get to the next level.

Albert Samuelian, Managing Director of OMD West and Strategy, shared how small business can make the most of their modest marketing resources to effectively get a word out about their products and services.

“People were so jazzed about the information they took away with them,” said Teena Rasmussen, Director of the County of Maui OED. “It is so difficult for our business owners and their managers to get this type of high level information here in Hawaii.  It costs thousands of dollars to attend a conference on the mainland. It is far more effective to bring these speakers here to make the most impact. We believe this first conference accomplished just that. I could not be happier.”

This year’s presenters included:

· Maggie Bayless, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of ZingTrain
· Michael Moore, President of Nā Hoaloha ʻEkolu Limited
· Petra Marquart, President of Petra Marquart and Associates
· Albert Samuelian, Managing Director of OMD West and Strategy
· Edward Arias, Special Agent, Honolulu Division of FBI
· Matt Freeman, Sr. Manager, IP & Managed Services of Hawaiian Telcom
· Drew Nagai, Assistant Vice President Sales & Marketing, Risk & Safety Management of First Insurance Company of Hawaiʻi
· Kent Kasaoka, Director of Accounting & Tax Solutions
· Case studies also featured local businesses:
o Karen Christenson, VP of Mama’s Fish House
o Aric Nakashima, Co-Owner of Pukalani Superette
o Cathy Nobriga Kim, President & GM of Maui Ice & Soda Works
o Ned Davis, Founder & CEO of Maui Innovation Group
o Saedene Ota, Principal of Sae Design

Kent Kasaoka, Director of Accounting & Tax Solutions lead a Tax Strategies for Small Business workshop.


“The speakers were fabulous,” said Robert Campbell, President of Maui Printing Company, a full-service printing firm based in Waikapū. “I especially enjoyed hearing Petra Marquart. She was one of the most dynamic customer service speakers I’ve ever heard. I was so excited about the information during her presentation that I invited my entire staff to participate in her workshop the very next day.”


“I thought the conference in its first year was great,” said Charlene Kauhane, President of Kaʻuhane Inc., a marketing and public relations firm based in Lahaina. “The topics covered were excellent and the information I learned will definitely help my clients.”

Michael Moore (President of Na Hoaloha Ekolu, Ltd.) participated with Maggie Bayless (Co-Founder and Managing Partner of ZingTrain) in a case study of his own company. According to Moore, “In today’s business world, excellence is almost the price of entry. If you’re embracing continuous improvement and wanting to always be better, wanting to exceed your customers’ expectations, then you’ve got to also embrace change.”

Jason Bach, Controller for Lahaina Grill and Lahaina Ice Cream Parlour shared “This conference was very eye-opening. The presentations and workshops really engage you and the speakers have real life experiences and suggestions that are relevant and current.”

Hanna Mounce, Executive Director of a new non-profit Nā Koa Manu Conservation in Olinda also saw value in attending. “I really came to this conference to learn more about marketing and tax strategies so our nonprofit can start off with a good model.  The marketing presentation was particularly interesting hearing about the changes in the industry and changes in how people use things. Although we’re not interested in marketing goods and services like most people might do, we are interested in marketing education and awareness.”


Throughout the conference the importance of small businesses was underscored.

“Small businesses make up more than 99% of US employer firms, so it’s critical to our economy and our communities that they succeed,” said Mayor Alan Arakawa. “Small businesses in our community are so important because they provide the diversity of goods and services that we need to live on an island. These people really put their hearts and souls into their businesses, they employ a lot of people, and they help to make our islands a vibrant community.”

“This conference has the potential to be far-reaching as attendees begin to implement these business strategies,” observed Frank De Rego Jr., Director of Business Development Projects at MEDB. “Everyone was actively engaged and focused on improving their small business IQ. There is a pent up demand in small business to have the tools necessary to adapt and innovate in rapidly changing markets. The Hawaiʻi Small Business Conference through the quality of its program and speakers will continue to make that possible.”

The Hawaiʻi Small Business Conference coincided with National Small Business Week, a celebration of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.

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