Maui Business

Keys to Success Shared During Hawai‘i Small Business Conference

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What does it take to successfully plan, build and grow a small business? Many of the keys to success were shared with those who attended the 2nd Annual Hawaiʻi Small Business Conference held at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center earlier this month.

Presented by the County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development and Maui Economic Development Board, the conference attracted nearly 200 people who came out to hear and learn from more than 20 national and local business leaders and successful business owners.

“We were thrilled with the diversity of attendees who truly reflected our small business community,” said Leslie Wilkins, MEDB’s President & CEO. “Our audience ranged from small startups that have been in business for less than a year to a company that is third generation and celebrating their 90th anniversary. Everyone came to learn, share, network, and hopefully do future business together.”

Diversity also described the topics that were covered: employee and customer engagement, staffing for success, scaling one’s business, shaping a game plan for growth, keeping your business relevant, establishing a social media strategy, when to pivot a business, tax strategies, living aloha in business, and how to select and protect a company trademark.

Among the top keys to success shared by national and local business leaders and business owners were:


Karen McCullough, multi-generations keynote speaker, on employee and customer engagement:

“Your brand is the core of your company, the heart of your business, the soul of your culture, and the foundation for employee engagement. Unlocking genuine collaboration and trust where people feel connected, protected, and respected are the keys to a company’s success.”

Gwen Woltz, Co-Owner of Wahine Media, on social media:

“I think that the number one thing that businesses really need to grab onto and remember is social media is all about relationship building. So it’s important to make sure you’re keeping on top of your business’ reviews, checking your posts, and responding to comments every day.”

Kim Ball, President of Hi-Tech Maui, on how businesses can stay relevant:


“What I’ve learned over the past 37 years is to do business the right way and to always be honest and do it with integrity. One of the keys to our success is to get involved in the local community, because locals are very loyal.”

Omar Sultan, Co-Founder of Sultan Ventures and Founding and Managing Partner of XLR8UH shared, on smart growth:

“The number one advice for entrepreneurs that are looking to grow or scale their business is to achieve product market fit first. Don’t do a business just to satisfy your own personal likes and dislikes. A business is there to serve the customer and your eye from day one should be on the customer and the customer experience.”

Ashley Takitani Leahey, Co-Owner of Maui Thing, on marketing:

“No matter what business you’re in, if you really are passionate and believe in what you’re marketing then you’ll be successful.”


David Yamashiro, partner of Ululani Hawaiian Shave Ice on strategies for growth:

“It’s definitely important to plan for growth. There are so many unforeseen obstacles that can come about and if you plan for it and prepare for it, it will most likely happen.”

Robert Kawahara, CPA, Managing Member of Kawahara + Hu, on tax strategies for small businesses:

“You shouldn’t determine your success by how much taxes you pay but how much wealth you’ve accumulated. At the end of the day it’s how much wealth you have.”

William McKeon of McKeon Sheldon Mehling (A Limited Liability Law Company) on intellectual property and branding:

“Have a mark or tradename or business name that is really distinctive, unique, and creative so you can have protection in your name and not fear from competitors using your name or something similar.”

Dan O`Connell, Chief Executive Officer of HNU Photonics and HNU Energy, on perseverance:

“Be passionate, love what you do and be excited about it every day. Never lose your perspective, be relentless and never give up.”

Ramsey Taum, Founder and President of Life Enhancement Institute, on the way of aloha:

“In business, it’s not enough to just say you’re doing aloha. Aloha is a commitment and a state of being.”

Richard Hogeboom, founder of a new leadership training business called FLEX Maui said, “This conference was just phenomenal.  It covered the whole spectrum of starting, managing, controlling and growing a business; there were great speakers both local and from the mainland; and educational and inspirational content… This entire experience will help me get my new business on the right track from the beginning and to set up the structure of it.”

“I attended the conference because I really wanted to further my education and the amount of speakers and the topics covered really struck a cord,” said Natalie Taras McDuff, President of Hāna Tours of Maui. “Sometimes as business owners, we get so caught up on the daily workings of our business; but it’s so crucial to step back, look at the bigger picture and to also focus on what is truly at the core of what we’re doing. This conference was big enough to be diverse, yet small enough to effectively network.”

“All the conference speakers were incredible,” said Matthew Daniells of Silverback Hawaiʻi LLC.  “David from Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice’s story gave me chicken skin – one local business just taking off getting requests from 29 countries to open franchises. It’s so inspirational!  This entire experience really gave me a boost and creative ideas for my new business venture.”

Chelsea Hindley, owner of Da Warehouse, added “The speakers at this conference shared a lot of information. I have to go home and digest it all. The way that I interact with my employees and my customers is always a morphing process and I’ll definitely be using some of the things I learned from this event.”

This year’s event sponsors included: Pacific Media Group; The Maui News; Small Business Administration; Maui Chamber of Commerce; Molokaʻi Chamber of Commerce; Lānaʻi Chamber of Commerce; Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce; Maui Filipino Chamber of Commerce and Maui Printing Company.

Robert Kawahara, CPA, Managing Member of Kawahara + Hu, shared tax strategies for small businesses during one of this year’s conference workshops. PC: Hawaiʻi Small Business Conference

Karen McCullough, multi-generations keynote speaker, talked about the importance of employee engagement, ranging from baby boomers to Gen-Z, and how it impacts the company’s brand. PC: Hawaiʻi Small Business Conference

Conference attendees had the opportunity to network and quiz the experts during a Speed Networking session. Pictured: Frank De Rego Jr, MEDB’s Director of Business Development Projects; shared information on MEDB’s programs and services. PC: Hawaiʻi Small Business Conference

Ashley Takitani Leahey, Co-Owner of Maui Thing, shared the story behind Maui Thing and what inspires and drives their company’s success. PC: Hawaiʻi Small Business Conference

Omar Sultan, Co-Founder of Sultan Ventures and Founding and Managing Partner of XLR8UH, leads the panel “Shaping A Game Plan for Growth.” Pictured (left to right): Sultan, David Yamashiro (Co-Founder of Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice), Eriko Dowd (Founder of Zellee Organic), and Glenn Morrin (Acting Beverage Manager of Three’s Bar and Grill). PC: Hawaiʻi Small Business Conference

Kim Ball, President of Hi-Tech Maui, shared how his company continues to adapt to today’s changing environment. PC: Hawaiʻi Small Business Conference

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