Maui County’s small business were honored on Feb. 26 at the 2015 Mayor’s Small Business Awards, held at the King Kamehameha Golf Club. The awards dinner was held in partnership with the Maui Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce president Pamela Tumpap and Mayor Alan Arakawa presented honors in six categories including a Lifetime Achievement Award to Jennifer Brittin-Fulton of Exceptional, Inc. DBA Employers Options Maui.
Ginni Madsen of The Maui Mortgage Team was named Young Small Business Person of the Year. Madsen, nominated by Clifford Wright of Control Freaks Hawaii, owns her own mortgage business and runs a team of individual mortgage loan originators from her Kihei office. Recognizing that many fell on hard times during the recession, Madsen helps people get loans that will save them money and are not beyond their financial means. Additionally, Madsen created the Maui Mortgage Minute on KPOA and KISS to provide the Maui community with tips on what they can do to help save on their mortgages and refinancing needs.
This year’s Outstanding Nonprofit Business of the Year award went to Lanai Community Health Center–Diana Shaw, Executive Director. LCHC, nominated by Aaron Fernandez of First Hawaiian Bank, has increased its patient count from 975 in 2012 to 1,402–a 44 percent increase. The Health Center is also in the process of building a new facility, which is located in the middle of Lanai City. In addition, they have added many services to accommodate the needs of Lanai residents, such as Optometry and Physical Therapy. LCHC also was honored for its ability to adapt–covering services that make sense for Lanai City. For example, they provide services in the evenings and weekends to accommodate patients who work shift hours at the Four Seasons Hotels. They also provide services on a sliding scale to serve low-income residents and those who are uninsured or under-insured. Further, they have a low-cost medicine program to offer patients medication at $5/generic and $10/brand. They also provide holistic care aimed at the body and mind.
Maui Sunseeker, LLC—Chuck Spence was honored as Exceptional Small Business of the Year (10 or fewer employees). Maui Sunseeker, LLC operates the Maui Sunseeker LGBT Resort which primarily caters to the discerning LGBT traveler, but welcomes all adults to its location in Kihei. In 2012, when Hawaii civil unions were legally offered to same-sex couples, Sunseeker marketed its service and arranged more than 60 civil unions that year, equating to 6 percent of all civil unions in the state. Since full marriage equality passed in 2013, the company markets Maui as the ultimate destination for same-sex weddings and honeymoons, even creating their own “Marriage is for Everyone; Say I Do on Maui” video. Their impeccable service and aloha spirit shared with guests has earned the resort TripAdvisor’s coveted Certificate of Excellence for four consecutive years and the resort enjoys 4.5 stars out of 5 thanks to rave reviews from customers.
This year’s Exceptional Small Business (11-35 employees) honor was presented to Rawlins Enterprises, Inc.–Shirley Rawlins. Rawlins Chevron on Molokai is a family business operated by “Aunty” Shirley Rawlins, her daughter Lori Lei Crivello, three other family members and hired employees. The location is a convenient place to stop for food, gas, drinks, ice and to talk story before heading to the beach or home at the end of the day. They allow the small community to post notices of funerals and fund-raising events, as Molokai gets much of its news form the “coconut wireless.” Running a business on Molokai is tough–the cost of living itself is a struggle–but Rawlins and Crivello are admired for showing strong business leadership. They support school, community and sports events whenever asked.
The Exceptional Small Business of the Year with 36-100 employees honors were presented to Maui Gold Pineapple Company–Darren Strand and Rodrigo Balala. With the help of many, including a handful of former Maui Land & Pine employees, Maui Gold Pineapple Company was born in January 2010 after Maui Land and Pine closed its pineapple operations in Hali‘imaile. They joined together to preserve the 100-year-old pineapple culture on the island. A short five years later, this fledgling agricultural company continues to grow, employing more than 83 highly versatile and skilled workers. They also have conserved 1,200 acres of agricultural land and open space. Also, more than 50 percent of their current employees have been working in the pineapple industry for 30-plus years. The key to their economic success is attributed to the development of innovative new food processing technologies and mutually beneficial partnerships. The company’s dedication to their product and customer service does not end until the customer is entirely satisfied with the “best tasting pineapple in the world.”
Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Brittin-Fulton has placed thousands of people in permanent jobs during the past 24 years. Her company, Employers Options, has changed many times over the years but Brittin-Fulton really learned to listen to her clients in 2008-2009; at the time, small businesses were seeking more efficiencies and savings from payroll and human resource services. Taking that into consideration, Employers Options was able to offer new solutions and become a trusted Human Resource partner, tripling sales since then. Brittin-Fulton ensures that her team has the best training and technology tools available to do the best job possible. For the past 10-plus years, Employers Options has been selected as one of the “Top 25 Women-Owned Businesses in Hawaii” by Pacific Business News. Today, they employ more than 1,000 people, are the fourth largest women-owned business in the state and the largest on Maui; the company is also one of Maui’s largest employers.
“Small businesses are a vital component of Maui County’s economy, and these awards celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit that is alive and well in Maui County,” Mayor Arakawa said. “Business owners take many risks, work long hours and put their personal assets on the line to provide our community with goods and services, as well as much-needed employment. I congratulate each of this year’s nominees and winners, and wish them continued success.”
For more information on awards, grants and programs managed by the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, visit Mauicounty.gov/OED.
Photo courtesy of Mayor’s Office of Economic Development