Pacific Edge Magazine - Women in Business 2020

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Hawai‘i's Business and Lifestyle Magazine 2020 HAWAI‘I’S WOMEN OF BUSINESS u Shelley Wilson, Creator, Owner, and President of the Wilson Care Group

“Failure is not an option. No one is going to give it to you—you make it happen.”

Hawai‘i's Business and Lifestyle Magazine 2020 HAWAI‘I’S WOMEN OF BUSINESS

u Lititia Thomas, Owner of the Ho‘āla Spa and Salon

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G R A N D H YA T T K A U A I R E S O R T & S P A —

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Kakaako Mural Inspired by Rotary’s Mission to Promote Positive Peace Throughout the World Photo by Keiger Bowman 6 PACIFIC EDGE

A vast array of colors, flowers and hands now welcome visitors at The Barn at SALT at our Kakaako. Every February, the streets of Kakaako become an outdoor art gallery filled with murals on practically every corner. This year, one mural tells more than just the artist’s story, but a story about unity and a group of people across continents with one common mission. “World peace and the advancement of unity involves humble hands and the minds that guide them to action,” said local artist Luke DeKneef. “This design is the result of hundreds of stories from amazing people that have addressed conflict through Rotary club projects. They create conditions that foster long lasting peace. The different colors of hands and flowers with distorted fragments display the vast diversity of ethnicities from all walks of life and represent the importance to promote peace and togetherness around the globe.” Rotary International partnered with DeKneef on his mural to commemorate the 111th Rotary International Convention that will be held in Honolulu this summer. DeKneef’s work is part of POW! WOW! Hawaii, an annual art festival featuring local and visiting artists who contribute murals, gallery shows, concerts and more to Kakaako.

know what to expect. I didn’t know much about Rotary’s mission at first but as I dug deeper into the work they do around the world, I knew it was gonna be a fun partnership.” Rotary brings together people of action from all continents and cultures who deliver real, long-term solutions to the world’s most persistent issues. Each year, Rotary members contribute millions of dollars and volunteer hours to promote health, peace and prosperity in communities across the globe. Rotary is the driving force behind efforts to eradicate polio and has reduced cases by 99.9 percent in three decades. This June, Rotary is holding its 111th annual convention in Honolulu. Rotary’s annual conventions are held in different cities around the world to give members a chance to share projects, advice, friendship, their cultures and traditions. This will be the second Rotary convention to be held in Hawaii. The first took place in Honolulu in 1969.

“From the very first strokes of his spray paint, Luke captured our hearts and imagination and fulfilled a promise to provide Hawaii and the Rotary world with a splendid visual interpretation of one of our core values: promoting positive peace,” said Del Green, chair of the convention’s local Host Organization Committee.

“Luke was the perfect artist to capture the heart of Rotary through his artistry.” The story behind the mural is only part of what makes this piece so intriguing. DeKneef’s art was also the only mural in the festival with a special Augmented Reality Instagram experience. With just a scan of the QR code near the mural, DeKneef’s art comes to life bringing a new reality to the local art world. “I was blown away,” said Dekneef. “Every bit of the mural from the fingers down to the floating fragments came alive and it all felt so organic. I have been following a few artists on Instagram that use AR in their mural work and I told myself I need to find out how I can incorporate this into my future work. Looks like I didn’t have to wait too long to try it out.” DeKneef’s partnership with Rotary was a little bit of a surprise, but one the local artist soon discovered was meant to happen. “I was definitely excited, but I didn’t

Photo by Keiger Bowman

Luke DeKneef is a self-taught artist born and raised on the island of Oahu. Growing up surfing on the north shore, he developed a fascination with waves and the movement of water. Early in his career, DeKneef painted plumeria clusters growing in lush valleys, majestic Hawaiian mountains standing tall at sunrise, and turbulent blue waves cascading on the surface of the ocean. From small canvases to large-scale murals, DeKneef’s art embodies the relationship between humans and the ocean. “I’m excited about the art industry here in Hawaii,” said DeKneef. “There is so much amazing talent here that sometimes goes unnoticed. A lot of artists use technology and social media to gain exposure but there are a handful that don’t because they have very limited resources. I hope to change that and be a voice for artists who struggle with navigating through the art world by learning what I can, whether it be the business side of the art or the techniques needed to develop our skills.” DeKneef’s Hands of Peace mural is located at The Barn at SALT at our Kakaako. For more information about Rotary, visit PACIFICEDGEMAGAZINE.COM 7


Contents VOLUME 15 ISSUE 01 12


SERVICE Shelley Wilson, Creator, Owner, and President of the Wilson Care Group

15 WOMEN IN BUSINESS Q&A Q&A with Leaders in Business 38 LEARN Sheri Kira, Kira Hawaii Boutique 40

WEALTH OF WISDOM North Star inspirations taken from What’s My Worth


EXPERT EDGE Experts answers from leading professionals

42 PERSERVERANCE Lititia Thomas, Owner of Ho‘āla Spa and Salon 44 MANAGEMENT Lisa Truong Kracher, President and CEO of Staffing Solutions of Hawaii and Kahu Malama Nurses 48 COMMUNITY Breana Grosz, General Manager of International Market Place 50 TECH Anne-Marie Lerch, Owner of HiTech Hui 54 INNOVATION Tea Chest Hawaii



Publisher's Note

Monica Lau Photography

Aloha! Inspiration and Innovation are two key concepts that all business owners—be they young entrepreneurs or seasoned businesses veterans—draw upon in order to maintain their company’s competitive edge. These are two consistent themes that we highlight in every issue. In recent conversations, several of our most loyal readers and supporters expressed that Pacific Edge served as a catalyst, providing them with the confidence to start their own businesses. However, what is confidence? Is it a feeling? Is it an action? According to an online dictionary, confidence is a noun that describes the trustworthiness or reliability of a person or thing, as well as the belief in oneself and one's powers or abilities. As a woman in businesses, I find that there are times when I feel confidence; yet, there are times when I also lack confidence. For me, a lack of confidence can be directly related to several key factors: lack of sleep, burnout, health-related issues, fear of the unknown, a comment someone made, or allowing someone to take away my power. We all have days when we lack confidence, and the importance of self-care in maintaining one’s confidence cannot be understated—whether it be in the form of

meditation, a beach day, a swim or surf, or hanging out with family and friends. In this issue, we focus on the importance of being authentic, gracious, vulnerable and transparent. As Jackie Reed the CEO of TS Restaurants mentioned, fear can be prevalent in all of us as leaders. Yet, this fear can work as a catalyst that drives us. We are all going to make mistakes in business and life, so take the chance, and if it doesn’t work out forgive yourself and try again! All of the women featured in this issue are truly beautiful inside and out. Many spoke of harsh setbacks that drove them to success, and my hope is that you can really sink your teeth into some content that is sincere and raw. Something that resonates to you for your growth. Before my mother passed away a few years ago, her last words to me were, “Don’t let anyone take away your power!” I share this with you today so that you too will find your power. Don’t dim your light for anyone. Be you! Be courageous. Be vulnerable. As Bob Marley once said, "The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for." The more courage we show the more our confidence will increase. Showing imperfections is only weak when our faults stop us from taking action. Opening up to others places one in a vulnerable position; however, it also allows the world to truly see how amazing you really are. That vulnerability provides deeper connections that open the door for your courage to be used. Confidence is the courage to act in spite of fear and imperfection, and, at the end of the day, it is the people you uplift, care for and admire that matter most

PUBLISHER/EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Naomi Hazelton MARKETING COORDINATOR Ria Sappal COPY EDITOR Aaron Deal CREATIVE DIRECTOR Chase Nuuhiwa PACIFIC EDGE MAGAZINE 1088 Bishop St. #1130 Honolulu, HI 96813 (808) 737-8711 ADVERTISING (808) 737-8711 Pacific Edge magazine is a quarterly publication available through subscription, direct mail and at bookstores throughout Hawai‘i. The views expressed within Pacific Edge magazine do not necessarily reflect the opinions of management and ownership. Pacific Edge magazine may not be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

during your last days on earth. Embrace your vulnerabilities and watch your confidence soar! Let your heart open, and allow people to see your true authentic self. No one is perfect.

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Farm Town Roots and Combat Boots by NAOMI COOPER photo DAVE MIYAMOTO

“Some people never get the wake-up call—that accident was the best thing that ever happened to me. It was a gift,” says Shelley Wilson, owner of Wilson Care Group, a provider of private in-home care.


t age eighteen serving as an Army medic, Shelley Wilson survived a major car accident which left her disabled, blind for a time, and utterly helpless. Her small farm town in Iowa did not provide any home care services, which left her parents with the unanticipated— an angry, vulnerable, beaten spirit who needed them to care despite her bitterness. Shelley explains from experience, “We are so awful to the ones who love us when we are sick and in pain versus a doctor.” Bringing in a trained third-party to care for a patient with a disease or after an accident is what can preserve the dynamics between loved ones during adverse times. Shelley says understanding the feelings of anger that come from being labeled as “disabled” is what initiated her to start her business at age twenty-one.



It was being stationed in Hawai‘i that saved her spirit she said. “Hawai‘i had such a different way of treating people. It nurtured me into the woman I am.” It was here that she traded farm-town jeans, combat boots and Army scrubs for the business life in high heels and her favorite feminine accessory—lash extensions. In 1996, her living room became her office, her first patient became her backing and credit cards helped her pay her employees when she couldn’t get help elsewhere. Clearly, tenacity set Shelley apart, as she states after twenty-four years of business that “Failure is not an option. No one is going to give it to you—you make it happen.” When asked what makes her happy, this veteran confesses it is taking care of other people and showing them unconditional love. It’s why the Wilson Care Group has partnered with the Wounded Warrior Project to provide “battle buddies,” or veterans who become caregivers for other veterans. Shelley once even went “undercover” as a caregiver taking on a patient with short-term memory loss who was too difficult for others to work with. Resilience in dealing with challenging people is a tool that Shelley acquired in her own military experience. As a seventeen-yearold woman starting boot camp in 1992, the slap of crudeness and humiliation were inevitable milestones of her training. Shelley’s face cringed as she remembered one of the care packages her mother mailed to her at boot camp. “It was ripped open—candy and bras were held up for all to see, the letters from my mother were ridiculed and read out loud for all to hear,” It was just a part of the indoctrination, one that she credits as acclimating her to the



Failure is not an option. No one is going to give it to you—you make it happen.” rejection of business life. This background allowed Shelley to look past the outward resistance of the patient, and to see that he just needed someone he could trust that was strong enough to combat his pain along with him. After months of perseverance, Shelley won him over, had taught him to trust another, and forged a friendship that continues today. Even outside of work, she catches herself making homemade snacks for grown men. Shelley explains with her infectious smile, “The baggage with our loved ones goes away when we help other people in their greatest time of need.” In fact, it was taking care of her own father toward the end of his life that really freed her. For it was his doubts of her success that fueled Shelley to truly prove herself. After years of dismissing home care as valuable, he finally needed her for his own nurturing. It was in experiencing the compassion Shelley had built an empire on, that he finally said the words that healed her: “I’m so proud of you.” Most businesses are at stake to make money, but in Shelley’s case, the assets are much more fragile, “You are gambling people’s lives. You just have to evolve, own the decision good or bad and say we are going to get through it.”


Women in Business Q+A What do you do for self-care? Self-care for me is a bubble bath, jazz music and a glass of wine. I tune the entire world out and go into an almost meditative state. It's truly one of the ways I decompress on a regular basis. I also enjoy spending time with girlfriends as part of my "self-care" regimen. I know that it's important for me to give and receive unconditional love on a personal level with my friends to stay mentally and emotionally healthy. If a crystal ball could tell you anything about your future, what would you want to know? If a crystal ball could tell me anything in the future, I would want to know if some of my personal trials and tribulations over the past several years have ultimately led me to a place of gratitude and growth. It's been a very difficult few years, beginning with my father being ill and passing away, my marriage ending, losing a very dear friend and then having my own serious health issue. I've always been a believer that there's a silver lining to every black cloud in my life. With nearly all of the hardships I’ve faced, there has always been a tremendous life lesson that has provided me with growth and inspiration. As I continue to get stronger everyday and heal from a rather stormy and tumultuous time in my life, I'm looking forward to the next chapter. I'm not broken, I'm still whole. I'm not fatally wounded, but I have some scars. I'm not without vision, because I can see the future now.

I've always been a believer that there's a silver lining to every black cloud in my life.�

When was the last time you cried? I cried yesterday after receiving a call from one of my patient's family members. They shared a very sad story with me that reminded me of a specific moment I had experienced when taking care of my father after having to admit him to a hospice facility. There was nothing I could say to make this loved one feel better. There was nothing I could do to take away the pain

she was experiencing in having to make such difficult decisions for her father. I could only listen and cry with her while she shared the pain of, undoubtedly, one of the hardest times in her life. I felt so privileged that she thought to call me and ask for me to be there for her, because I know exactly what that feels like.


Women in Business Q+A

sure to incorporate the company’s mission and values as guiding principles. The TS mission statement is “To create timeless memories and lifelong friendships with sunsets and aloha.” The values are ‘ohana, continuous improvement, serving our communities, pride in our employees, and fun. What makes TS special is that we have a company filled with people who embrace the mission JACKIE and values professionally CEO of TS Restaurants and personally. When REED you can find that kind of alignment, when people truly believe in the essence of a company, then you can have What are some hard lessons you something magical. I’m so proud to say had to learn in becoming a female that’s what we have at TS. powerhouse? It really is true when they say it’s lonely What is one of your proudest at the top. While teamwork is vital to an accomplishments in this career? organization’s success, each leadership My proudest accomplishment is being a position has its unique responsibilities and representation of possibility for Polynesians. pressures. With the CEO role, relationship My mother is from Samoa and I grew dynamics are impacted because of the up with a tremendous amount of pride demands of the position. for my culture. I love the idea that, with As a minority woman, you the success I have earned in my career, understand very quickly that you will Polynesian kids can see me as an example be underestimated and often not taken of what can happen for anyone who is seriously. I had to learn to take my seat at willing to do what is necessary to prepare the table because not everyone would wait for and create opportunities. I was raised for me to sit down. I also had to learn to by a single mom, the second person in my advocate for myself, which was not in my family to be born in the United States and nature as a young adult. I understand that the first to attend college. We did not have I am setting the bar for women who come a lot in the way of material things, but my after me, so it is important to not give them mom always encouraged me to dream. a lower starting point than they deserve. I As a result, I learned to look at the world am lucky to be in a nurturing organization without self-imposed limits. I learned the that shares these values. world can be bigger than what I could It is truly an honor to serve as CEO of actually see. In turn, I hope that I can inspire TS Restaurants and, of course, I take my Polynesian youth to see through the lens responsibilities seriously. I know that each of what is possible. If they can see it, then decision I make or approve has an impact they can go make that happen with all of us on over 2,500 families. The weight of that cheering them on. responsibility can be daunting, so I make


What wardrobe choices make you feel the best in your workplace on the dayto-day? When I am in the restaurants, closedtoe shoes are a must! My clothing choices are pretty simple; though, I love to wear local Hawaiian and Samoan designs when I can. My most cherished item is a necklace with my late grandson’s fingerprint. When I think of him during the day, I touch his fingerprint and it’s like I’m holding his hand. What makes you feel feminine? I come from a line of beautiful, strong Samoan women, so I don’t think about being feminine in the customary sense of the word. When I think about being a woman, I think about perseverance, strength, honor and tradition. I think about the challenges that my mom, aunties, grandmother and great-grandmother faced, and I am inspired by their power. I think of how my husband so lovingly supports and holds up our family, and encourages me to be the best version of myself. I think about teaching my sons and grandchildren about my culture, and making sure they feel pride in where they come from. My family makes me feel everything I feel. They are my source of strength and the greatest joy in my life. How do you overcome fears? It is important to me to understand why. So, when I am faced with a fear, I first try to understand why I am afraid. Sometimes fear can be a good sign that you should not do something. I analyze the fear from a logical point of view and then, if I decide to proceed, I proceed with determination. When I became CEO, I had many fears—fear of failure, fear of not knowing something I should, fear of making wrong decisions. I know that I will make mistakes so I cannot promise those who depend on me that I will be perfect. However, I can promise them that everything I do will be with the best intention and to the best of my abilities. I played sports growing up and am still an avid sports fan, so I very much buy into the notion of leaving everything on the field. If you have left it all out there, then you can overcome your fears.


of us are women. And we’re


committed to creating a healthier Hawai‘i.

At Hawai‘i Pacific Health, women are physicians, administrators, executives and more. Women are sharing their expertise and their commitment every day. And Hawai‘i is a healthier place for it. #HealthierHawaii

Women in Business Q+A What are some hard lessons you had to learn in becoming a female powerhouse? A hard lesson I had to learn was not being afraid to fail. I think growing up we are conditioned to strive for perfection. My career has taken me through so many amazing experiences. I’ve had the privilege of working and learning from some remarkable leaders, who have pushed me to step out of my comfort zone. I now understand that failing is a part of the journey. It’s about how I bounce back and how it helps me grow as a person and leader. Looking back at my career, I realize that everything ebbs and flows. At times, I’ve had to trust my instincts, be flexible and put in the time and hard work to make things happen. I’ve also surrounded myself with great people who are there for me as I am for them. What is one of your proudest accomplishments in this career? The Hawaiian Pie Company has been a dream for over twenty years. When we opened our doors in 2014, we knew we had an excellent product; but, we were launching a new brand into the marketplace. I knew it was going to be challenging. Yet, if we could get people to try the product, they would love it. With no marketing budget, we turned to social media and used our in-store experience to create conversations with people and connect on more than just pie. Everyone talks about how difficult it is to do business in Hawaii, but what’s not mentioned is how incredible our community is at lifting each other up if you create a space for that to happen. Our family is a witness to that magic, because through the years our customers and their word of mouth are what has helped us grow into where we’re at today. This is by far my proudest accomplishment— establishing a brand that represents Hawai‘i, connects with people and extends beyond the walls of our shop. We are more than pie makers. We are also storytellers and stewards of our family’s legacy.



Co-Founder and Co-Owner of Hawaiian Pie Company

What wardrobe choices make you feel the best in your workplace on the dayto-day? I need to be comfortable and be able to transition from office work to jumping on the production line. Prior to starting this business, I had a full closet of business attire, and I have to be honest; I get more done in jeans and a Hawaiian Pie Company t-shirt than I ever did in a pantsuit. What do you do for self-care? My mornings start with meditation, affirmations and a gratitude session before I head out the door. This practice helps me reset and focus on the day ahead.

With the hours that we keep, I try to get as much sleep as possible. The Calm app really helps put me in a good place, and typically I’ll fall asleep pretty quick once I put it on. How do you overcome fear? Fear can be an emotional roller coaster if you allow it to take over your life. For that reason, I look for a quiet space to sit and assess what is going on. I like to write things down to keep me focused and it helps me review the issue at hand. I am then able to map out a positive way to overcome these feelings.

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Women in Business Q+A

What do you do for self-care? Pray, always pray. A good friend once said, “Pray, step, pray, step, pray step,” and that’s what I try to do in all areas of my life. How do you overcome fear? I pause, breathe, meditate and pray. I search for positive words of affirmation from my Bible/books, and I share my fears with my closest hanai sister.


Director of Marketing & Communications at Adventist Health Castle

What are some hard lessons you had to learn in becoming a female powerhouse? I’m not sure about the powerhouse part, but there are three lessons that I live by daily. When things are working well and you are acknowledged, you credit your entire team, not yourself. When someone in your team has made a mistake, as a leader, you solely take responsibility for what went wrong and correct in private. I’ve also learned that when a mistake is made you don’t jump to conclusions; but, instead give people the benefit of the doubt and investigate. Lastly, I’ve learned that your team is your Ohana, therefore, you protect, mentor and include them in your succession plan.

the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, a presidential award given to organization/industries that focus on high quality outcomes that ultimately benefit the communities we serve.

What is one of your proudest accomplishments in this career? There are many; however, I would have to say being part of the amazing team at Adventist Health Castle who won

What mistake do you keep making again and again? Not taking the time to slow down and enjoy my blessings and this beautiful place I get to call home.


What wardrobe choices make you feel the best in your workplace on the dayto-day? I’d have to say that my mood, weight and hair dictates my day-to-day wardrobe selection. I have small, medium and large size clothes in my closet. Once the outfit size is determined, shoes, purses and jewelry will follow. At times it may take a new pair of shoes, a new purse or a piece of jewelry that will inspire that day’s attire and outlook for the day.

What chance encounter changed your life forever? There are two; Meeting my exhusband as that chance encounter that brought me to Hawai‘i and accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior. When was the last time you cried? There isn’t a last time it’s been more of how often. Since 2016, I’ve lost precious people, and, on November 18, 2019, I lost my tower of strength and the person that’s loved me like no other—my mom. I cry often. If a crystal ball could tell you anything about your future, what would you want to know? I’d like to know how my decisions, actions and career have impacted the people around me—those I know and those I’ve never met. I’d like to believe that I’ve left the world a bit better than when I entered it. What was your biggest challenge within the last two years professionally? Understanding and accepting that the healthcare industry continues to change. The greatest challenge has been re-inventing marketing and communications to ensure that we remain relevant and nimble with approaches that will effectively convey our services to our communities at large.

Great leaders inspire others to RISE to success Central Pacific Bank is proud to support a talented staff of its own women in business. Led by President Catherine Ngo, CPB’s managers create a thriving working environment that encourages innovation, ingenuity and teamwork. CPB is committed to shaping strong leaders and visionaries in their rise to success. And congratulations to Pacific Edge magazine’s featured Women in Business 2020!

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Women in Business Q+A What are some hard lessons you had to learn in becoming a female powerhouse? There have been so many lessons and here are some of them: Not to allow anyone to take my power away by breaking my selfconfidence and making me question my own abilities. To stand up for my values even if it may place me in a compromising position. That sometimes I’ve got to toot my own horn—I learned this from a boss of mine. Yes, it can be uncomfortable, especially being raised here in Hawai‘i where the culture promotes modesty and people are humble. However, if done right, tooting can be done with humility. That the only person that has control of my career success and achieving my life goals is me.


General Manager, CHA Halepuna Waikiki by Halekulani


What is one of your proudest accomplishments in this career? I actually have two! 1) Leading a team to successfully close Waikiki Parc Hotel in October 2018, a 30-year-old operation—that upheld its promises to our guests, our partners and the community on delivering service excellence even up to the very last day—and leading a team in the successful opening of Waikiki’s newest luxury boutique hotel, Halepuna Waikiki by Halekulani; both accomplished within a one-year time frame. It was certainly the most challenging period of my entire career; yet, it was also the most rewarding. 2) Founding Hawai‘i Women in Lodging and Tourism, an organization that welcomes women to aspire, inspire and thrive in my industry, and empowering members to be the best they can be by sharing knowledge, openly welcoming knowledge and using their knowledge to make a positive impact in their careers and those of others.

What wardrobe choices make you feel the best in your workplace on the day-to-day? Clothes that make me look and feel professional and feminine, flattering and, more importantly, comfortable. I believe that, if you feel good about how you look, your best self shines. What do you do for self-care? I schedule “pamper me” day once a month. It’s a day I look forward to a mani pedi and a massage and facial— yes, all in one day! Enjoying me time is a reward to myself. How do you overcome fear? My fear is usually a result of doubting myself. Therefore, to overcome it, I have learned to ask myself, “but what if?” But what if I didn’t apply for those college internships that took me abroad and allowed me the wonderful experiences of working in the hotel operations of prestigious hotels in Macau, China and Makati, Philippines? But what if I didn’t sign up for that management training program that eventually landed me my first management position less than a year after college graduation? But what if I didn’t take the suggestion to “just go for it” from a mentor whom I now credit for getting me to the position I am in now, as General Manager? But what if I didn’t listen to the advice of a peer to think about launching Hawai‘i’s Women in Lodging & Tourism, which is now going on 5 years strong and has a growing membership of over 400 terrific women? But what if I didn’t take a chance and accept the invitation to serve as an officer and sit on the board of Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association, which ultimately opened up so many doors for me in my career? That one question has served me well.


APRIL 17 - 23, 2020



NOV 5 - 15, 2020

NOV 19 - 22, 2020

Women in Business Q+A


Director of Community & Government Relations at Kamehameha Schools

What is the best advice you ever received? My mom always said, “Do it right, and you’ll only have to do it once.” It created a strong work ethic and a spirit of excellence within me for which I’m grateful. What advice do you have for other women who may be struggling or may need a boost in their career? Strengthen your character: 1) Have an attitude that gets excited about the success of others, 2) read the right books, 3) hang out with good wahine mana (strong women) and 4) never give up. The first bit of advice is self-explanatory. As for books, I recommend reading The Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holiday and Trillion Dollar Coach by Schmidt, Rosenberg and Eagle. Next, find wahine who have good spirits and challenge you to be better. Last, keep trying and make sure that if you fall, fall forward.


What is your greatest struggle that helped you get to where you are today? When I was 17, my mom who was single, passed away at age 41. Six months later, I started college on a four-year volleyball scholarship. I wasn’t a good athlete, so my scholarship didn’t cover food. With no help, I had to find a way to survive. I turned to a childhood pastime to be able to eat—spear fishing at night. Growing up in the country, diving was natural to me, so I didn’t see it as a struggle. But looking back, I realize that no college kid should live like that. In the end, I became a stronger person because of it. I didn’t know it then, but the struggle developed a spirit in me that never quits. What is the greatest and most rewarding experience derived from your work? The most rewarding experience is serving a worthy purpose, one that is far greater than any individual, and doing

it with others of like mind and heart. At Kamehameha, our mission is to create educational opportunities in perpetuity to improve the well-being of people of Hawaiian ancestry. In my position, I get to convene and collaborate with others— community members, government leaders, leaders in business, other organizations and those who have similar interests in transforming Hawai‘i into a better place. I get to advocate with others to improve policies that impact the systems that touch Native Hawaiian keiki (and everyone else), such as education, housing and the economy. People sometimes scoff at lobbyists, but they think twice when I tell them what I advocate for. . What gets you fired up? Seeing others overcome and seeing others win. I come from humble beginnings, so I know what it’s like to be the underdog, to be looked down upon and to be the one whom no one expects to prevail. I also know the regret of losing a national championship because of mental defeat; yet, I’ve learned what it feels like to overcome defeat, to come from behind and to make a comeback. I know the feeling of being physically exhausted and wanting to give up, but then finding the energy in me to push just one more time and end up with the team win. These are experiences that build character and strength, and I get fired up when others get to have a similar experience.

Women in Business Q+A and horrific! This community can do better—we can rally as a village, a community to protect, advocate, educate and intervene. We can be better parents, aunties, hanai and role models with eyes wide-open to see how easily children can be lured into compromising situations in-person and online. We can keep our law enforcement funded and trained. I do the work I do to spread the fire and ring the alarm, to keep a difficult conversation topic in mind and because I believe every individual has the right to self-determination and a life free from abuse.


Director of Advancement at Ho‘ōla Nā Pua

What was your biggest challenge within the last two years professionally? When I transitioned from my previous non-profit to Ho‘ōla Nā Pua, I had to adjust my approach to dealing with such a disturbing and urgent crisis. I also went from the largest international organization, Aloha United Way, to a relatively newer regional one. I had to expand my skill sets and activate new creative solutions because we are constantly forging new ground and facing adversities simultaneously. It has been an opportunity to not only implement and drive results, but also create a sustainable framework that allows our organization, key partners and volunteers to thrive. What chance encounter changed your life forever? The day I met an elder in the village of Helekpe in Ghana, West Africa. On my day off from working with Women in Law & Development in Ho, Ghana, I had ventured into a neighboring town for a hike. At the peak, I was beckoned by echoes of beautiful singing from the town below. When I arrived in their town, I saw a young

girl carrying water on a long dirt road. I came to learn that her home of Helekpe didn’t have water because they were not allowed to dig a well, nor did they have a schoolhouse. I began asking, “why?” In my quest for answers, I recruited a translator and secured an invitation to sit with the elders. It was the first time in 35 years someone had sat down and listened to them. The people of their village had been displaced and they were isolated without rights. Ultimately, we were able to negotiate a land settlement, which was secured through a local chief, where they were able to lay foundations, dig a well and build a school. The elder looked me in the eye and said, “You do good.” I was charged with a call-to-action sense of purpose for the rest of my life—don’t look away and don’t take the easy path; pay attention and see how you can make a difference. What makes you fired up? The violation of children and the crisis of sex-trafficking right here in our island home. In a recent survey done here in Hawai‘i, one in four people reported being a victim of sex-trafficking—that is unacceptable

What is one of your proudest accomplishments in this career? I am proud of the year I spent as an AmeriCorps volunteer in New Orleans rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. I worked beside and coordinated the many that came from across the country to rebuild homes and whole communities where only concrete platforms remained after the deluge; I organized students who devoted their spring breaks to swing hammers; I mobilized family members from my hometown and my friends’ hometowns who donated thousands of books to replenish libraries; I hit nails from dawn to dusk alongside people from five different states. The American spirit rebuilt that city and I was proud to be a part of that. What would you tell your teenage self if you could go back in time? I would tell her, “your older self would change nothing about who you are and how you are choosing to live your life.” And I would probably tell her to “hold on, the fire of advocacy work is not easy, but it is the most fulfilling life calling.” What do you do for self-care? Being a mother of two boys, I must be intentional about finding the time for self-care. I do well with micro-actions that take very little time, like picking up fresh flowers when I am at the farmer’s market or enjoying a delicious cup of coffee. I definitely love sampling chocolates—whether that is self-care or not may be a matter of debate! PACIFICEDGEMAGAZINE.COM 25

Q+A Hospitality Issue

Women in Business Q+A

What would you tell your teenage self if you could go back in time? Charge hard. Be all you. Continue listening to your heart and following it shamelessly, especially if it scares you. Explore everywhere. Feed your soul. Fuel your love for learning always. Love and connect with all people. Everything will be okay, Monica. You’ll make it at least another decade or two, so charge as hard as you want to. Did you choose your profession or did it choose you? This profession snuck in from left field and scooped me up like a tornado. She evidently wanted me; it took a hot minute for me to discover how deeply I wanted her too. We’re a match made in heaven. I love Financial Cooperatives all across the world and back. I feel humbled and honored to have landed, planted and sprouted here. What chance encounter changed your life forever? Due to vivacious globe-trotting, I’ve had a lot of ‘chance encounters’ that have impacted who I am today. I’ve learned among conversations across multiple cultures and languages to never bring up politics, but I once had the opportunity to share a message with Colin Powell. I told him how good of a job I thought he was doing and that we loved him—during one of the more challenging times of his career and life. It was authenticity at its finest. I didn’t intend to run into him; yet, that was the first thing that came out of my mouth, and it came directly from my heart. I have no idea if he recalls that encounter to this day, but I will never forget it. We all have the power to build other people up, regardless of their successes, failures, or stature—or lack thereof. The more we practice it, the more beautiful we all become. What do you do for self-care? I love adventuring in the great outdoors—be it strolling through foreign cities, backcountry snowboarding deep inside mountain ranges, or scaling rock walls with chalky hands. It’s my soul food, 26 PACIFIC EDGE


CEO of Kauai Government Employees FCU

especially when I get to do it with my children. What have you created that you are most proud of? That’s easy; Loveday, Malakai, Josie. (My three beauties) Second place: My kids and I are building a tree fort in our banyan tree. We're crossing our fingers it surmounts all other creations thus far. When was the last time you cried? Last weekend on a rooftop with great company, I was laughing so hard my abdomen cramped up—tears were shed.

What are some professional goals you are working on now? 1. Being the best CEO I can be; 2. charging through this Stanford Graduate School of Business Leadership Program; 3. soaking up the ideas of my mentors and coaches while being a good mentor to others; 4. serving on state, national and global Board of Directors to help our industry thrive amidst a rapidly changing landscape; 5. hosting and attending global field engagements for the World Council of Credit Unions and Researching PhD Programs.

Women in Business Q+A What was your biggest challenge within the last two years professionally? This is actually a pretty easy question. My biggest challenge within the last two years was when we were planning to launch a capital campaign to build our amazing STEM Center for Excellence at Camp Paumalu. Usually you plan for a three year capital campaign ramp up before you start construction; however, we were selected for the Innovative Readiness Training Program with the Department of Defense, which donated over $2.5 million in labor support to start the project. The challenge with receiving this grant was that the labor support would arrive in six months and only stay for 90 days. Talk about warp speed launch for a project. Our extremely supportive board of directors leaped into action with our team, and the community really stepped up to support the project. In less than one year, 50% of the building was constructed and 60% of the capital funds were raised with $3.2 million in funds still needed to finish the project. Connie Lau, CEO of HEI Industries, is the chair of our STEM Center for Excellence steering committee, who have given their all in helping us launch this campaign. The STEM Center for Excellence will create engaging curriculums and attract local young students to increase both female STEM interest and the number of STEM professionals in Hawai‘i overall. What makes you fired up? My entire career, as a senior executive in the hospitality industry, has been to mentor young women in their professional careers. Now, to be able to start with young girls—knowing that our leadership and STEM training we will be giving them an edge in workforce development—is extremely exciting. We have the programs, national corporate support and volunteers to make this happen and we will. Hawai‘i is ranked 47th in the nation for STEM majors per 100,000 residents; yet, we need 16,000 more STEM professionals each year. We are not going to let this



CEO of Girl Scouts Hawaii

data be our destiny—we will be part of the solution to improve opportunities for young people in Hawai‘i. When was the last time you cried? It was actually pretty recent. At our first STEM Center for Excellence Steering Committee meeting, a local philanthropist stood up and talked about how strongly she felt about the Girl Scout program, what it did for her family and how excited she was to see Camp Paumalu develop into a world-class center that will bring thousands of youth opportunities in the future. She then handed me a check for $100,000 and said, “first installment.” I’m not going to lie I definitely teared up, not only due to the amazing individual, but

also because of the community support the check represented in helping us reach the dream of building our STEM Center for Excellence. What do you do for self-care? A cancer battle a few years ago taught me to really appreciate those around you and this special place we call home. I spend absolutely as much time as I can with my grandchildren and my daughters, and when I’m not with them, I am always outdoors walking, hiking and gardening.

Women in Business Q+A

What is one of your proudest accomplishments in this career? I am truly proud of growing our engagement within our membership, which has been, and continues to be, one of my primary responsibilities. As a notfor-profit, most of our revenue comes from dues and events. When I joined the association two years ago, we were short-staffed and stretched thin; but, now we regularly sell out our events! That momentum has been great, and our team continues to build on that under our President & CEO Mufi Hannemann. Seeing the increased participation from our members has been incredibly rewarding. It sounds a little cheesy, but building relationships with them is amazing. Providing opportunities for them to create change together—whether it’s personal, professional, or a little of both— definitely keeps me motivated to work harder every day. What do you do for self-care? I am not as good about selfcare as I would like to be, but I think it starts with intention! I make a conscious effort to block time in my calendar to decompress and do the things that I want to do at least one evening a week. I know lots of people can relate to feeling pressure to constantly be out at events and “on” all the time—it can get overwhelming. Whether it’s reading a book, creating a floral centerpiece, or taking a dance class, it’s nice to make my own wants a priority. I also find it helpful to do something a little bit repetitive, like make dumplings. Some people find it monotonous 30 PACIFIC EDGE


Director of Membership & Special Projects Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association

or boring, but it can be really great to get out of my head and concentrate on something small. How do you overcome fear? I think I am always a little bit afraid, and I genuinely marvel at those who are truly bold and outgoing all the time. I was recently reminded of a Churchill quote, “Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.” The ability to choose to be courageous is within our own control. So, I try to focus

on that! It also helps to break down why I’m afraid. If the answer is because it’s simply something new, then that’s not a good enough reason. Although, if I really need extra motivation, an “accountability buddy” pushes me to follow through despite my own fears. When I commit to a goal and tell someone about it, the obligation to that other person will inspire me to work regardless of my fear and achieve whatever goal or objective we set.

Renee Confair has spent her career working in the world of movies and production in the islands. Her most rewarding projects involve making a difference in the perspective and concepts of shows that write storylines about Hawai‘i. After working with a range of productions from Hollywood blockbusters to small indies to game shows and commercials, Renee is producing a new story, and this time she has the lead role as an entrepreneur.

How does one become a producer? Someone once gave me a great piece of advice, and that was to start working in your field right away. So, I started at public TV in college making minimum wage. I made my way through the ranks and that helped me to build a proper foundation. That said, there are different types of producers, such as the executive producer who provides the money. Usually, the executive producer is a studio or someone very experienced that manages other producers. There is also the Line producer who controls the overall production’s day-today operations as the “boots on the ground.” What's the most challenging aspect of being a Producer? Everything revolves around staying on budget, making the show happen in the time allotted, plus getting a great cast and putting together a production that will be a success. There are many balls to juggle to make it all work. What is your most memorable movie project? Without a doubt, it was Descendants with George Clooney because the director, Alexander Payne, worked in a world that called for authenticity and realism. If the characters lived in Nu‘uanu, then we’d find a house in Nu‘uanu and shoot in the rain instead of cheating on a house in a sunnier, more convenient section of the island. Clooney played basketball with the crew at lunch, and during prep, we unwound with movie nights together at the director’s home. It was a beautiful way to work and an unforgettable experience.

Women in Business Q+A around and did it. Then,he came back to Hawai‘i and designed a clothing line for Neiman Marcus after conquering stage 4 colon cancer. He gave me the hope that anything is possible. For the last 8 years, I wanted to invent something. I believe if you can envision it, it can happen. In June 2017, I woke up and said, “I’m creating a card game.” Two years later, getCrewd Party Game launched and it has truly been a dream come true. What are some of the challenges you've faced in launching getCrewd? I’m a social media idiot and had to get up to speed. Plus, part of me takes issue with the shameless selfpromotion of it all. I didn’t realize I would have to put myself out there. How does it feel to go from multimillion dollar budgets to being an entrepreneur? It’s not as much fun spending your own money. Running my own startup reminds me of producing a documentary—sometimes the most worthwhile project has very little money. Name your most memorable behind the scenes moments. 1) Flying to Ni‘ihau with Bruce Robinson in his helicopter to scout the island. 2) Sitting in a van with Jennifer Lawrence and her parents during Hunger Games: Catching Fire and realizing through conversation how down-to-earth they are. 3) Being on a small pontoon boat at Kualoa Ranch at sunrise with Janet Jackson. 4) Going to the Producers Awards in L.A. and standing in the restroom line with Angelina Jolie behind me. She liked my shawl, by the way.


Creator of getCrewd Party Card Game and Filmmaker

How did you go from the Film Industry to creating a card game? Amos Kotomori, an art director who worked for decades in the film industry, inspired me. One day, he woke up and said, “I’m going to build a bed and breakfast in Bali.” That was out of nowhere, and he turned PACIFICEDGEMAGAZINE.COM 31

Women in Business Q+A What are some hard lessons you had to learn in becoming a female powerhouse? Growing up in Hawai‘i, it’s been ingrained into me to always remain humble. However, I’ve learned that sometimes this characteristic can be misinterpreted as a weakness. Now knowing better, I’m more inclined to speak up, take a stance, ask questions and make choices that not only affect me, but more so others that follow. Being brave and courageous with humility and gratitude is what I remind myself to do every day. What is one of your proudest accomplishments in this career? I don’t look at any one particular moment that makes me the most proud, but a combination of it all. This career journey in hospitality has provided me so much and an opportunity to do what I love. It’s provided me a way to be selfsufficient and take care of those closest to me. How do you overcome fear? Fear comes from the unknown, so I do my best to over prepare and surround myself with wise and trustworthy people. What do you do for self-care? Honestly, I need to be better at this, but simple things such as sleeping in on Saturday or taking my dog out for a short walk rejuvenate me. When was the last time you cried? Just the other day— thinking and praying about the strong, resilient and courageous women in my life that overcame, or are going through, life’s obstacles and yet remain so positive. They are my heroes and inspiration!



General Manager of OHANA Waikiki Malia by Outrigger

Robin I. Matsukawa, MD Internal Medicine Castle Primary Care of Kāne‘ohe 2 46-001 Kamehameha Hwy Suite 311 Kāne‘ohe, HI 96744

Castle’s primary care providers are accepting new patients Castle has made it a priority to increase the number of primary care providers serving Windward O‘ahu and continue to recruit new physicians to better serve our growing community. Castle’s primary care providers are trained to diagnose and treat a wide range of medical issues. They also can provide preventive services, such as immunizations and exercise counseling, as well as health screenings to detect illnesses when they are often easier to treat. When a medical issue requires a specialist or further diagnostic tests or interventions, patients have access to Adventist Health Castle’s network of 300-plus medical experts and the newest and most innovative treatments and technology. For more information about our services, visit our website:

(808) 263-5020 Angela J. McCarthy, MD Internal Medicine Castle Primary Care of Kailua I 30 Aulike Street Suite 501 Kailua, HI 96734 (808) 263-5015 Alice D. Mendykowski, FNP Family Nurse Practitioner Kailua Primary Care of Kailua I 30 Aulike Street Suite 501 Kailua, HI 96734 (808) 263-5015 Benjamin J. Roney, MD Family Medicine Castle Professional Center 46-001 Kamehameha Hwy Suite 305 Kāne‘ohe, HI 96744 (808) 263-5019 Marc B. Shlachter, MD Family Medicine Castle Health Clinic of Lā‘ie 55-510 Kamehameha Hwy Suite 5 Lā‘ie, HI 96762 (808) 263-5017 Ryan K. Tenn, ANP Adult Nurse Practitioner Castle Health Clinic of Lā‘ie 55-510 Kamehameha Hwy Suite 5 Lā‘ie, HI 96762 (808) 263-5017 Changhua Wang, MD Internal Medicine Castle Professional Center 46-001 Kamehameha Hwy Suite 402 Kāne‘ohe, HI 96744 (808) 263-5020 Maria E. Wilson, MD Internal Medicine Castle Primary Care of Kailua I 30 Aulike Street Suite 501 Kailua, HI 96734 (808) 263-5015

Women in Business Q+A What are some hard lessons you had to learn in becoming a female powerhouse? Not everything that I had envisioned turned out how I had hoped. Not every opportunity provides equally for male and female counterparts. I had to learn the importance of being able to be both a teacher as well as a student in order for me to grow. Learning to adapt to the ever-changing elements in the corporate environment was key to moving up in my career. Equally important to celebrating my victories was embracing my defeats.


Senior Manager - Sales & Central Reservations at Roberts Hawaii, Inc.

What wardrobe choices make you feel the best in your workplace on the dayto-day? Fashion is important to me as it is a statement of the person that I am and allows me to communicate volumes about myself. I choose pieces that build my self-confidence and sense of selfempowerment. Pieces that make me feel best in my workplace are suave but not workplace formal. Taking intentional command of how I dress and present myself was a huge steppingstone in empowering myself.


What is one of your proudest accomplishments in this career? I was able to work for a Japanese company doing business in America for the first time. It was a 7,000 square foot luxury spa in Waikiki. I played a significant role in connecting all the necessary components from clearing all the spa equipment through customs, coordinating the logistics with the hotel, hiring and training staff on product knowledge and ensuring our entire team was on-point to showcase this anchor spa for the hotel chain. Together we were able to garner an award-winning spa in the first year after its opening. Today, that spa continues on with its excellence, and I’m proud to have been a part of its success.

What do you do for self-care? Self-care is a habit I actively form to make sure that I take care of myself each day. For my day-to-day self-care routine, I try to make sure that I've done the following at some point in the day: been outside, moved my body, engaged in a delightful conversation and sang a song super loud. Another way I practice self-care is to disconnect from everything and everyone and really enjoy my solitude—spa days are my favorite. Going for walks, swimming, going to a play and attending performances by our symphony are some of the things I do to re-energize myself.

How do you overcome fear? Fear used to cripple me. I have since learned that, if I sit for a couple of minutes and take a look at what elements of the situation scares me the most, I can then embrace it and use that energy to analyze the options and make a wise and well thought out choice. If my fear is based on a lack of information, then I do my best to gain the knowledge rather than speculate. I give myself a time limit to sit in "fear" and then motivate myself to take action.

Women in Business Q+A


Senior Account Manager at Automated HealthCare Solutions

Junior Chamber International. I’ve had to learn that sometimes it’s ok to say no, to postpone things, or to ask for help. What is one of your proudest accomplishments in this career? Career-wise, I am very proud of the knowledge I’ve gained about the industry. Workers’ compensation has a ton of moving parts, and the fact that many of my clients consider me a resource for them makes me very proud. Late last year, six chapters of JCI elected me as their state president. I am so honored and humbled by their faith in me, and that they believe that I can lead the organization into the future. How do you overcome fear? I’m definitely a “face your fears” type of person. Except for cockroaches, with those I run. I have found that usually scary things are just unfamiliar. What are some hard lessons you had to learn in becoming a female powerhouse? The hardest lessons are probably those that involve work-life balance and managing time and expectations. I have two children, and, even though I have a great support system, managing their activities, school and futures is already a full-time job. Additionally, it required a ton of time and hard work to get to 36 PACIFIC EDGE

where I am with my career. I have had to learn that there are times I will fail, I will miss a deadline, or miss a parent-teacher conference. The most important thing is to keep moving forward and get creative whenever this happens. Another lesson I’ve learned is that time is extremely valuable. I always want to do everything—whether it’s spending time with the kids, finishing up a project, or taking on the job as State President of

What do you do for self-care? I take the time to hang out with friends, go to the spa, or watch television and movies. I also love to travel and unplug. When was the last time you cried? Honestly, I really don’t remember—I’ve cried when I’m sad, I’ve cried at funerals and I cry whenever I watch sad movies.



Bling to Business by CHRISTIE HONORE photo DAVE MIYAMOTO

How Sheri Kira turned her passion into profit.


hen walking into Sheri Kira’s thriving Kaka‘ako boutique, Kira Hawaii, it’s almost impossible not to pick up an item that catches your eye. However, despite the store’s impressive array of stylish clothing for women and keiki, Kira’s business actually began with her popular line of handmade jewelry. “Jewelry, that’s our bread and butter,” said Kira, “That’s what we started with, so naturally that is our top seller and what we’re really known for.” In college, Kira had majored in visual communications with hopes of becoming a newscaster; but, after shadowing a professional in the industry, she soon realized that the position was not for her. Having always been interested in fashion and DIY projects, Kira took a jewelry class and began listing her items on Instagram for friends to purchase. Eventually, as her designs evolved and her materials became more highend, she began consigning her pieces at local boutiques including Fighting Eel and Mikinola.



I’m all about supporting other women and supporting local.” “I was still working full time—in business development—at a local credit union and then hustling at night making jewelry. I always had something to do,” said Kira. However, after a leadership change at the credit union, she decided to quit her job and pursue her jewelry line full-time. With the support of her husband, Kira opened a kiosk at Pearlridge that featured her jewelry along with an eclectic mix of upcycled women’s wear and clothes for keiki and babies. After only a year and a half of operating her kiosk, Kira’s vision outgrew the small space and she and her husband moved their business into a corner storefront in Mililani Town Center. The size of her space doubled again only six months later when she was given the opportunity to move into a larger, more prominent vacancy in the Mililani Town Center. “I did not have any background in business,” said Kira, “everything was purely trial and error. Culturally, when you’re born and raised in Hawai‘i, you’re a little bit more timid and sometimes hold back on asking questions. I didn’t really have anyone to guide me.” Despite having to learn the ins and outs of business through experience, Kira forged lasting relationships with

customers at her Mililani location, including those who would drive all the way from town and longed for a closer location. Eventually in 2018 due to a number of requests, Kira and her husband opened their current Kaka‘ako location. In addition to branching out geographically, Kira launched the first collection of her new label, Paradiso, in April 2019, which features comfortable pieces for women and their keiki in matching tropical prints. “I’ve done clothes before, just under Kira Hawaii, because I’ve always loved design,” said Kira, “clothing is like a whole new monster, but I enjoy it. I am still working on another print that hopefully will come out by the summer.” Kira also loves supporting other local brands and the entrepreneurs behind them by stocking their unique products in her store. Many of the brands carried by Kira Hawaii, including Hi‘ilani Hawai‘i, Izzy and Luke, Sticks + Stones and Short Stack are made in Hawai‘i. “I’ve always appreciated when local boutiques carried my line so I want to do the same for others,” said Kira. “It gives them the opportunity to get their name out there and push their brand, so I’m all about supporting other women and supporting local.”


a wealth of


Playwrights Lucie Lynch & Marcia Zina Mager, the stars of Hawai‘i’s award-winning two-woman musical MONEY TALKS, have compiled a few inspirational quotes, from their new book, titled, What's My Worth? For more info go to:

You wander from room to room, hunting for the diamond necklace already around your neck.” Rumi, 13th century Sufi poet

“What’s my worth? Am I given it at birth? Can you buy it, can you trade it? Can you hide it, or create it? What’s my worth?”

Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Gloria Vanderbilt

Lyrics from MONEY TALKS

Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

“The miracle is this–the more we share, the more we have.” Leonard Nimoy 40 PACIFIC EDGE

“Immeasurable, that’s what we are. Incredible, a vast shining star. A treasure, you and I, we can fly Beyond the sky.” Lyrics from MONEY TALKS

Our true gift to ourselves and others lies not in what we have, but in who we are.” Maryanne Williamson

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Brene Brown “I am whole, I value myself, I have inherent value.” Act Two, MONEY TALKS “You must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible.” Deepak Chopra “Dwell in possibility.” Emily Dickenson “Maybe we have this success and money thing upside down and inside out! Maybe being rich looks different for everyone.” Act Two, MONEY TALKS “The key to realizing a dream is to focus not on success but significances and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning.”

Expert Edge Experts answers from leading professionals

Las Vegas Is Booming! With over $28 billion in projects under construction over the next couple years, Las Vegas has become quite the investor’s dream. Some examples include the Raiders, Virgin Train (CA to Vegas), Resorts World Casino, The Drew, Circa Casino, and the Dream Las Vegas Hotel. These projects have helped boost the local economy, population growth, employment opportunities, entertainment, and more. These trends have helped spark growth for both the commercial and residential real estate market. Las Vegas continues to be an attractive investment for investors globally. Contact Xpand Realty for all of your Las Vegas real estate needs.

Oprah Winfrey “Don’t listen to what others may say. Be your own sunrise, be your own day. You’re gonna make it your own special way ‘Cause you’re you!” Lyrics from MONEY TALKS

RANDY HATADA Broker/Owner Xpand Realty Las Vegas 702.289.1669



Journey to Leadership an unexpected



t is hard to have it all,” says Lititia Thomas, owner of Ho‘āla Spa and Salon. “To have a strong career, kids and a great marriage, especially without family help, is a hard reality.” Lititia’s brightpink tassel earrings and pink-suede kitten stilettos add that spark to her clean elegant demeanor sitting on the benches outside her Ala Moana location. This Sagittarius was not always a business owner, but instead was offered to buyout the previously named “Aveda Spa” after the market crash of 2009. As the general manager of the spa at the time, she was not looking to take on such a huge responsibility. However, when she realized that the fifty-plus employees would either lose their jobs or be subjected to huge life changes, she


decided to take on the challenge. “Leaders do not have the luxury to worry when others depend on you,” she notes. Being a business owner doesn’t mean you don’t have bosses—the boss just becomes someone bigger like the bank you took a loan from, the IRS, the landlord, the clients you serve—the stakes just get higher. So, this Southern California native began to make small changes that would allow the spa to stay in business like narrowing down vendors, renegotiating terms and switching to just-in-time inventory purchasing instead of on-stockpile inventory. Coming from a line of strong single moms, she started working at age fifteen taking a job as the receptionist of a salon. Years in the beauty industry and management contributed to her company’s polished

classic style, including the clean blackand-white dress code and high hiring standards. These hiring choices she credits as the success of her company— that in order to grow, one must let go of being the most important person and instead build a team of strong leaders. The support system of likeminded people is essential in order to let your guard down and talk about the hard stuff. “You need people who are stronger and better than you. Not negative people who bring you down,” she confides. Failure is bound to happen—it’s just a part of business— and, when that happens, leaders need good people who help them “rip the band-aid off, move forward, and be the bull in the storm.” Fortunately, despite financial setbacks, this feminine industry

Challenges are crisis or opportunity. There is no master plan. It’s just how you look at things.”


makes it worth it, allowing Lititia her favorites of heels, sleek pants, squared French-tip manicures and lipsticks. “You are allowed to be pregnant,” Lititia noted, as many industries are not understanding of that basic female demand. It also encourages self-care, which many don’t do enough of. While Lititia indulges in monthly massages and plant-peel facials, her day-today self-care includes time with her family, walking in nature, reading and watching a movie. When asked about her proudest moment, Lititia reminisces of the ten-year anniversary dinner she threw at the Kahala Resort this past January. “Walking into that party,” in a glamorous burgundysequin gown, “Seeing all the faces of the people who care was the best feeling.” Realizing she is living her dream life coupled with her son’s compliment of “Mom, you were the prettiest one at the party,” is what makes imperfection okay. “Challenges are crisis or opportunity. There is no master plan. It’s just how you look at things.”








Lisa Truong Kracher discusses taking the helm of a second company.


s CEO and President of Staffing Solutions of Hawai‘i, it seemed as though Lisa Truong Kracher had achieved the highest title possible in her industry—that is until it doubled. In July 2019, Staffing Solutions of Hawai‘i acquired Kahu Malama Nurses making Kracher President and CEO of two successful local staffing agencies. “I’m really excited about the opportunity of the acquisition and to expand in the healthcare division,” said Kracher, “Not only does it complement Staffing Solutions of Hawai‘i, in that it’s an extension of our staffing services to the local community, but now we’re also servicing more job opportunities and developing more relationships.” Kahu Malama Nurses was founded 37 years ago by Kathy Newkirk Leong, who approached Kracher about continuing her company’s legacy when she retired. Kracher’s “once in a lifetime opportunity” has come with double the responsibilities and double the workforce; however, with 11 years of experience building Staffing Solutions’ policies, procedures and training in a sustainable way, Kracher is confident in her ability to navigate a new company. Having grown up in Loma Linda, California, Kracher is no stranger to the medical industry—with two sisters in the dental field, two in the medical field, and a mother who works as a nurse. Prior to taking the helm of Staffing Solutions in 2008, Kracher worked as a Senior Consultant in Process Improvement at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California. “It’s all healthcare which I’m familiar with,” said Kracher, “but I still need to learn the clients and

the different disciplines. I think that’s where the challenge is now, just knowing how to direct my team in the best way possible to service our clients in the healthcare setting versus the commercial setting.” When Kracher first took the reins of Staffing Solutions, she faced a very different set of obstacles. New to Hawai‘i and its business community, Kracher faced quite a learning curve when jumping from a corporation like Kaiser Permanente to entrepreneurship. As a young woman new to the island, she found it difficult dealing with local Hawai‘i business owners who were older, more knowledgeable, and had all the connections. She adopted a sink-or-swim attitude, and—in order to prove to herself that she could succeed in the position—she studied the staffing industry, joined HR organizations, took staffing seminars, spoke with business owners and joined the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), where she served on the board of directors. “If I knew then what I know now, then I would have excelled faster of course,” says Kracher, “but I did the best I could when I started. I just went in there and held true to my values and customer service and treated my clients the way I would like to be treated.” With Hawai‘i’s unemployment rate hovering around 2.7% it may seem difficult for a Hawai‘i staffing firm to fill positions with such a small pool of applicants; but, as Kracher has learned from experience, hiring from a local agency can reduce potential turnover rates and lead to a better fit overall. “We know how Hawai‘i is unique in the culture, the aloha spirit and business operations,” said Kracher, “we know our candidates, we know the community, and we know what it takes to fill an open position and find the right match.”

I held true to my values and customer service and treated my clients the way I would like to be treated.” PACIFICEDGEMAGAZINE.COM 45

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Community-Minded MANAGEMENT Breana Grosz takes the lead as new General Manager of International Market Place


hough Breana Grosz may not have anticipated her promotion to General Manager of International Market Place last June, her colleagues were already keyed-in to her potential for the role. “The previous GM, Michael Fenley, was fantastic,” said Grosz, “I think he knew I was possibly destined for this seat prior to realizing it myself.” Though Grosz has now spent almost four years working her way up the ranks of International Market Place, her path to her current career was far from traditional. Graduating from the pre-med track at Michigan State University and obtaining her nursing assistant license, Grosz first worked leading life-enrichment activities at an Alzheimer’s care home before relocating to Los Angeles, California, where she ran one of UCLA’s surgical pathology labs. Inspired by her creative friends who were pursuing their dreams in less traditional career paths, as well as her father’s entrepreneurship, Grosz moved to Waikiki and worked as a waitress before landing a position as a medical equipment sales representative. The position took her to every OR on the island where she helped physicians test out her equipment.



“I think that taught me such a valuable lesson on how to handle stressful situations,” said Grosz. “There’s a patient on the table and it’s your responsibility to make sure the equipment works so that the procedure can keep going.” Hoping to branch out further from the medical field and utilize more of her writing skills, Grosz joined the Bennet Group as an account executive where she enjoyed learning more about local cultural and community efforts through the firm’s clients, including Nainoa Thompson of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. Through her position, she also became acquainted with several individuals from International Market Place’s construction team. The rest, as they say, is history. “If you would have asked me back in college ‘where do you see yourself?’ I would have never said Hawai'i, and I never would have said managing a shopping center,” said Grosz, “but I think all of those experiences have led me to something that has been really fulfilling and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.” Originally founded in 1957, the center was undergoing a modern transformation when Grosz first joined the company as an Owner’s Representative Assistant. The updated center includes nods to Hawai'i’s culture and history in everything from the plants, to the architecture, to its nightly hula performances. Having come to the GM position after gaining a strong marketing background within the company,

Inclusive communities are what I’m all about”



Grosz has had to learn to navigate the new facets of her position. “We know what we don’t know,” said Grosz, “I’m in a position, gratefully, that most people have a lot more experience in, so I combat that potential challenge by asking questions and reaching out to mentors—several of the GMs of the hotels around here and people who have done this role or similar roles—asking them, ‘what’s your biggest challenge?’ and then trying to anticipate some of those things to just better prepare myself.” For Grosz, the position has proved fulfilling. Allowing her to engage with the community, both through initiatives at IMP and through her personal involvement with local organizations. She currently serves as the Vice Chair of Women in Lodging through HTLA and serves on the boards of both the Waikiki Improvement Association and the Waikiki Community Center. She’s also involved with ACCESS surf, which helps people with disabilities surf and swim. “My grandma means a lot to me,” said Grosz, “she’s no longer with us, but she had a stroke when she was 60 and it left her wheelchair bound, so helping people that have different capabilities—one might say disabilities—is really important to me. Inclusive communities are what I’m all about.”




Dream Manifester by NAOMI COOPER photo DAVE MIYAMOTO


nne-Marie Lerch was pregnant with her second child when she stated, “I’m gonna build a multimillion-dollar business,” four years before it came true. She developed the Hi Tech Hui, an IT Support and Cybersecurity business, around her desire for a flexible schedule to meet the demands of motherhood. “I don’t know how, but I’m gonna make it happen,” she announced after leaving her dream job at Amazon’s, to follow her husband’s lifelong desire to live in the islands. When I asked her why Hawai‘i was the place where she finally plunged into becoming her own business mogul, she said, “I just knew.”



Her fresh, makeup-free face beamed brightly across the table at Bogart’s. “Avocado Chicken Salad with the dressing on the side,” she ordered, admitting it was her first meal of that busy Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Being a mom of three girls, a boss, business owner and wife, she has more than enough filling up her schedule. Managing time is one of Anne-Marie’s keys to success, as she reveals her secrets of how HI Tech Hui is becoming one of Hawai‘i’s fastest growing companies. For her, having children was a priority. While she initially thought of being a stay-at-home mom, she soon realized her entrepreneurial desires were a necessity for her happiness. This Canadian proves, “Success is all in your mindset.” She used visualization to manifest herself a position at Microsoft, which moved her to Seattle, Washington in 2005. She says dreams become reality when you make the daily habit to reevaluate your life, contemplate what you want, and choose to adjust accordingly. “Know what you want, act like it already is, be thankful, write it down, and watch it come.” However, Anne-Marie notes the importance of having the right people on your team, the right support to help you believe your success is possible and constant communication within the family you choose. She gives credit to her mother as being a huge part of her work

team, as her mother helps care for her girls ages four, six and thirteen. AnneMarie also credits the mentors who have been in her shoes, found success and passed on their wisdom. The importance of these values is what drives Anne-Marie and her husband to take great care in hiring the right people for their company. They want to work with like-minded people who they can “have a beer with,” share in their core values and live by them. Lastly, Anne-Marie says be gracious to yourself because the journey is not perfect. “Some days I get the kids to school late and forget everyone’s water bottle,” she shrugs. “Be okay with letting some things go as you focus on your goal of getting back to happy.” She assures that it’s the little things, the little pleasures that will get you through that imperfect process. “Because running a business is very masculine, I have to purposely breathe through the stress to get back to feminine.” Anne-Marie’s morning routine—applying face creams, diffusing essential oils, and enjoying the fifteen minutes of quiet time before the kids wake up—is full of little rituals that keep it all together. “You have to love yourself, not beat yourself up. Enough people will beat you up. Life is too short. What do you have to lose?”


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How One Hawai‘i Company is Committed to Quali-Tea

As we enter a new decade, the team at Tea Chest Hawaii continues to work on innovative ways to make their products both body-wise and earth-friendly.


he Honolulu-based tea company wants to make the term “farm to cup” common language. Owners Byron and Satomi Goo have more than 25 years of tea manufacturing experience and have cultivated decades-long relationships with farmers across the world to source high quality ingredients for the products the company makes. This commitment paid off when the company’s iced tea won the title of Best


Iced Tea in America in a national taste competition. Tea has a healthy halo and the company also strives to make products that taste good and are sustainable to produce. These are main reasons why Hawaiian Natural Tea (HNT), the company’s line of single-serving tea bags, is becoming very popular with both kama‘āina and visitors. HNT incorporates organic and local ingredients and capture the flavors and

lifestyle of Hawai‘i. The blends are rich in antioxidants and functional benefits including everyday activities such as relaxation and sleep, to burning fat and boosting metabolism to a cleaner caffeine boost of energy. Hawaiian grown ingredients sourced from local farms include black tea, mamaki, lavender, and cacao. Most recently, the company helped launch Haleakala Tea grown by Maui Tea Farm after 5 years of collaboration.

Only two pounds of this rare hand-crafted tea are produced every month which is served exclusively at Halekulani Hotels in Waikiki and Okinawa. Haleakala Tea features a refined cup of black tea with notes of dried bananas, ohia blossoms and raisins. The TEA-m has also worked diligently to establish a communi-tea to support and teach island farmers how to grow and harvest tea through agriculturally sustainable practices. Sustainability is also why all of the teabags produced by the company are 100 percent plant-based with no plastic or metal staples. The company’s hot blends incorporate as much as 95 percent organic ingredients. Tea Chest Hawaii’s relationships extend to more than 300 hotels, restaurants and retailers throughout the islands and Japan and include many celebrated chefs and restaurants who choose to serve Tea Chest Hawaii’s products to their guests. So the next time you are looking to unwind, brew a hot cup of Tea Chest Hawaii tea. And rest assured that what tastes good, is also good for you, and good for the planet. To learn more about Tea Chest Hawaii and its products please visit


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