Maui County Businesses Make a Splash at SBA Awards

February 8, 2013, 11:54 AM HST · Updated February 10, 6:58 PM
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Leslie Wilkins, ivice president, Maui Economic Development Board, has won the Veterans Small Business Champion award. (pictured in red). Courtesy photo.

Leslie Wilkins, vice president, Maui Economic Development Board, has won the State of Hawaii Veterans Small Business Champion award. (pictured in red). Courtesy photo.

By Sonia Isotov

Kawahara + Company, CPA, Ardent Management Consulting, Blue Ginger Cafe & Bakery, Rainbow Tax and Financial Services, Media Element, Maui Economic Opportunity, Okamoto Realty, and the Maui Economic Devleopment Board are among 2013 SBA Small Business Award winners, according to a recent announcement by the US Small Business Administration (SBA).

“The SBA Small Business Awards shine a bright light on the skill, innovation and drive of small businesses in our State.  The 2013 winners clearly show tenacity, creativity, and the resourcefulness needed to overcome adversity,” said Jane Sawyer, the district director for the US Small Business Administration, in a written statement.

“These business owners demonstrate the best of Hawaii and the promise for the future.”

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Every year for the past 26 years, the Hawaii SBA office has been honoring outstanding small business owners, entrepreneurs and advocates who best illustrate the important contributions of small business to a vibrant local economy and a thriving community.  Many awards are given; some on the state level and others representing county level achievements in multiple categories.

MEO BDC Director Craig Swift and Core Four graduate Tihani Yamane. Swift, executive director of the MEDO Business Development Corp. has won the Home-based Business Champion award from the SBA. Courtesy photo.

MEO BDC Director Craig Swift and Core Four graduate Tihani Yamane. Swift, executive director of the MEDO Business Development Corp. has won the State of Hawaii Home-based Business Champion award from the SBA. Courtesy photo.

Here are the SBA award winners from Maui County:

      • Leslie Wilkins, the vice president of the Maui Economic Development Board, Inc., won a statewide award as the 2013 Veteran Small Business Champion for the State of Hawaii. This award recognizes her dedication and support of assist armed service veterans to start and grow businesses. Wilkins was the only statewide winner from Maui County.
      • Another statewide winner from Maui County was Naomi Hazelton-Giambrone, co-owner of Element Media. She is the 2013 Women in Business Champion for her work in the advancement of women’s business ownership.
      • The State of Hawaii Home based Business Champion is Craig Swift, the director of Maui Economic Opportunity Business Development Corp. (MEO BDC). The Home Based Business Champion Award acknowledges the contributions and possibilities of the growing home based business segment of the economy. Winners of this award have the experience of operating a home based business and have demonstrated their advocacy and awareness of the challenges for home based businesses.
      • Brandon LaBonte, chief executive officer of Ardent Management Consulting, is the Maui County Small Business of the Year. Courtesy photo.

        Brandon LaBonte, chief executive officer of Ardent Management Consulting, is the Maui County Small Business of the Year. Courtesy photo.

        Robert S. Kawahara of Kawahara + Company, CPAis the State of Hawaii Financial Services Champion. Kawahara won this title for his strong advocacy and uspport to small business owners by going beyond the standard accounting and tax assistance.

      • Bradon LaBonte, the chief executive officer of Ardent Management Consulting, is the Small Business of the Year for Maui County. Ardent Management Consulting is a growing software development firm with 55 employees located in Kihei.
      • In the same category, Linda Okamoto, of Okamoto Realty in Lanai City, was named the Maui County Women in Business Champion for her work to support the advancement of women through education, volunteerism and leadership.
      • Georgia Keenan-Abilay & Michael P. Dupree, owners of the Blue Ginger Cafe & Bakery in Lanai City won in the Family-Owned Small Business for Maui County award.
      • In the category of Minority Small Business Champion, Thomas Chou, the multilingual owner of Rainbow Tax and Financial Services won for Maui County. He is known for his unique skills and dedication to helping overcome gaps in language and business knowledge among his clients.
Robert S. Kawahara of Kawahara + CO, CPA is the State of Hawaii Financial Services Champion.

Robert S. Kawahara of Kawahara + CO, CPA is the State of Hawaii Financial Services Champion.

On a statewide level, David Yogi and Dr. James Kwong of Yogi Kwong Engineers, LLC, were awarded the highest honor of the 2013 Small Business Persons of the Year for the State of Hawaii.

Kwong Engineers, LLC is an innovative geotechnical engineering firm founded in 2005 to provide state of the art technology design and construction management.  The company has established a worldwide reputation as leading experts in trenchless excavation. Despite the tough economic environment, the firm has continued to show significant increases in revenues annually and employs a staff of 40 including top engineering professionals.

The small business award winners will be honored at the 26th Annual Statewide SBA Small Business Awards Luncheon on February 28, 2013, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. This gala event is hosted by Hawaii Business magazine and other local sponsors.  Reservation information is available at www.hawaiibusiness.com/smallbusinessluncheon.

For a full listing of award winners, inquire at (808) 541-2990, ext. 202.

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