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Hawaiian Commerce and Entrepreneurism

March 14, 2013
Charles Keoho - Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce Education Committee Chair , The Maui Weekly

For many Baby Boomer Kanaka Maoli like myself, being "Hawaiian" meant very little. Many of our recent ancestors did not want their keiki and mo'opuna to grow up speaking Hawaiian, but a few families insisted on keeping generational knowledge alive.

Since the 1960s, a renaissance of the indigenous Hawaiian culture taught us the structure, protocols and attitudes of early Hawaiians, which can be adapted to our modern lives. Now the mission for the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce is to promote and sustain our Hawaiian culture, nurturing a strong community of Hawaiian values to enhance opportunities for success in business and education.

As education committee chair, I see much opportunity for individuals to start a business, whether construction, products and services, home-based or retail. But how do you know if you are an entrepreneur or even capable of starting your own business? Ask yourself these questions: Do you see unusual opportunities everywhere you look? Do you see solutions to an inconvenience that annoys you to no end? Providing opportunities and solutions in the form of products, goods or services is business. By serving others and meeting their needs, you can meet your own needs.

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‘Ōlelo Pā‘oihana
Charles Keoho
Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce Education Committee Chair

Start with what you have available--your own skill set and your passion. If you don't have enough skills, you can learn online, in school or from others. Introduce yourself to the most successful person you can find, and, ask their permission to discuss your desire to go into business. Ask them to be your business mentor.

When I mentor, I urge young entrepreneurs to make the following part of their business personality:

1.It is always better to sign your paycheck on the front than on the back.

a.Control your own destiny.

b.Learn how to increase your bottom line with more income, less expense and by better tax efficiencies.

2.Who is in competition for the skill set that you offer?

a.Even if you have advanced education, jobs in big corporations can go overseas and leave you jobless. Your own business can be more secure than a fancy career.

b.The wealthiest man in the world did not get there because of his education; he got there because he developed unique skills his competition didn't have.

c.If you don't have an advanced education, you may be able to climb coconut trees without spikes, "people pay big money for that;" take the coconuts to market, people are paying big money for bottled, canned and processed coconut water--how much healthier and more valuable is product that is fresh?

3.Capitalism is not a four-letter word.

a.Creating a product or service that meets your customers' needs better than anything else and making that product available to as many people as possible makes money.

b.The county, state and federal government cannot exist without private sector taxes.

There are so many resources to assist you. If you are a Native Hawaiian, learn the history of Hawaiian commerce and entrepreneurism. Learn your genealogy and the history of your family. You may be surprised to find surveyors, canoe builders, hotel owners and journalists among your ancestors. Learn why Kamehameha was known as the Napoleon of the Pacific. Learn about the industries that the Hawaiian Kingdom fostered. And most of all, follow your legacy to a business of your own.

Dare to paddle your own canoe, rather than being the admiral in someone else's navy.

Take a look at on a regular basis and see what is going on in the Hawaiian business community.



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