Archive for July, 2010

More Food for Thought

July 30th, 2010
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First, thanks to the Star-Advertiser for putting featured bloggers on Page 2 of their print edition! Also, we should thank the advertisers. Without them, no newspaper, no S-A website. Without sponsors like Argosy University, I wouldn't be able to do the Career Changers TV show either.

Recently, Honolulu Weekly editor Ragnar Carlson wrote a blunt open letter about how they get complaints when that person's business is left out of the free event listings, or they're unhappy because they didn't get coverage. Yet those same people don't want to spend money on advertising in the Weekly. I hear you, Ragnar! Same thing happens with our show. Businesses want free publicity, but mention the word "advertising" and most look away as if I just farted.

Enough about that. To continue the Food Biz theme in my last post (link for topic highlighted in today's S-A print edition), here's a few more odds and ends related to the Kokua Market farm tour I did last Saturday...

Kevin Vaccarello, co-owner of the Sweet Home Waimanalo cafe and Palaka Moon Farm, said they just bought a bio-diesel trolley, which they'll be using to give tours of his organic farm. It will also include a food stop at the cafe, where much of the produce will be supplied by that very same farm, and possibly incorporate a beach stop in 'Nalo.

• The trolley will run on used cooking oil from the cafe and Sam Choy's restaurant, where partner Dave Campbell is a brew master. (Wonder if the fuel will smell like french fries, beer or both?)

Joanne Kapolulu, the third partner at the cafe who runs daily operations, was the original owner of Java Java in Kaimuki. She became a Starbucks regional manager, then lived on the Mainland for awhile before returning home to Hawaii. She acknowledges there are residents on the Windward side who resent tourists -- but without visitors, many of the small homegrown businesses wouldn't survive. The trick is finding the right balance that will fit places like Waimanalo without intruding on locals.

• During the farm tour, I ran into Kory Payne of Voter Owned Hawaii. Turns out he's now living in a trailer at Palaka Moon Farm and working with Kevin on sustainability projects. I met him about three years ago when I got involved with the public beach access movement in Kailua, and Kory was involved with the Surfrider Foundation, one of our big allies. Kory has not seen my show though because his trailer doesn't have TV. Talk about being off the grid!

Coincidentally, the next day I picked up the Sunday Star-Advertiser editorial section and Kory's op-ed piece on publicly financed election campaigns was on the front page. Worth reading if you missed it.

What's cool about all this is how so many different people from all walks of life and age groups can come together on certain things, such as the need to eat healthier and find ways to improve our environment. When I look at the divisiveness in politics and over social issues, sometimes I feel like crying... and then you meet folks like Kevin, Joanne, and Kory, and you're reminded there are reasons to be hopeful.

Have a great weekend!

Bonus links:

Ainability website, which is another venture Kevin is involved with.

Our show listings and viewing times for Career Changers TV are now posted for the August episode, which begins airing Thurs., Aug. 5. Until then, you can still catch the current program that features Goodwill's new career training center in Kapolei.

Food Biz: Big Changes Coming?

July 27th, 2010
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Over the weekend, I was invited by macrobiotic chef Leslie Ashburn to go on a farm tour organized by the Kokua Market natural food co-op, which she does marketing and PR work for. It got me to thinking a lot about the food biz and how it's changing in Hawaii... or more precisely, how it's changing us in many ways.

For instance, simply putting "food" or "FUUD PHOTOS" in a blog headline is guaranteed to generate more views. Only UH sports can match the drawing power of close-up pictures of juicy hamburgers or artfully prepared bento boxes. It's basically food porn. And we can't get enough of it, apparently.

As a recovering alcoholic and ex-smoker who has written openly about being hooked on booze and cigarettes, I see similarities in addiction and over-eating. But most people still have a skewed view of what's really the biggest public health threat. It's not drugs. It's food. Far more people die each year from being fat than from substance abuse.

Obesity is reaching epidemic proportions in Hawaii, while causing health care and insurance costs to rise for all of us. It's literally weighing down our children's future as they follow in the footsteps of couch potato parents, who are setting bad examples for their kids.

Yet it's easier to seek out evil boogeymen like the meth monster, and make drugs Public Enemy Number One. Who wants to be the party pooper that says all those ono grinds we love so much are bad for us? Not me -- I love my kalua pig, and pasta, and Chocolate Moosetracks ice cream. But I'm lucky. I was born with a metabolism that allows me to eat pretty much whatever I want and not pack on the pounds.

So how does this relate to jobs and career opportunities? Food is big business. It's dominated by global conglomerates that pack our supermarket shelves with thousands of processed items. It creates McJobs for the masses -- and also smaller gourmet markets for enterprising chefs like Leslie, who specialize in a healthier type of cooking. I believe we're going to see much more of that as a backlash to Big Food's heavy-handed cramming of unhealthy products down our all too willing throats.

I missed the first part of the Kokua Market tour, which took the group to the Reppun Farm in Waiahole, and met up with them at Sweet Home Waimanalo for lunch (opted for the kalua pork sandwich instead of the tofu burger -- and yes, it was delicious). While waiting for Leslie's gang to arrive, I had a chance to talk to two of the restaurant owners -- Joanne Kapololu and Kevin Vaccarello -- and learned that this wasn't your typical eatery. They have a plan and a vision that includes growing their own produce in 'Nalo, and incorporating principles of sustainability into their operations.

In fact, there was so much we discussed, I'll have to continue this story in my next blog post. We'll also be doing CCTV segments on Leslie, the Kokua Market, Sweet Home Waimanalo and Kevin, the guy behind Sustain Hawaii and Palaka Moon Farm. Right now, what they're doing is on a small scale. But I'm hoping people like them will start to have a larger impact on how we eat and view food here in Hawaii.

In the meantime, here's some links to tide you over... mmm, sausage links! Somehow tofu sausage just doesn't have the same appeal, eh?

Leslie Ashburn's macrobiotics cooking site (offers classes too)

Kokua Market Natural Foods Grocery Cooperative

Sweet Home Waimanalo

Sustain Hawaii

And to find out what's on the August edition of Career Changers TV, please visit our website. Mahalo!

Small Biz Help - FREE!

July 23rd, 2010
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It may seem counterintuitive to start a new business in a weak economy. But the reality for many -- especially older people -- is that it could very well be your best option if you were laid off and prospects appear dim in your field of expertise.

But where do you begin? Let's say you have an idea, or a burning desire to create your own company from the ground floor up. There are plenty of resources on the internet and for-hire business consultants you could contact. However, there are FREE services available too that you should take advantage of.

Yesterday, my producing partner Ron Darby and I shot a segment for Career Changers TV about SCORE. They just moved offices from the Federal Building to Restaurant Row (so did the local SBA, btw). Originally, SCORE was comprised of retired business people who volunteered to share their experience and hands-on knowledge with budding entrepreneurs. Now that many older execs aren't ready for retirement (or can't afford to retire), you'll find SCORE volunteers who are still working for a living.

SCORE gets funding from the federal government and is affiliated with the SBA, so they can also tell you about loan programs and other federal assistance you may qualify for.

I got tipped off to SCORE by Amanda Stevens, who I met last month at the Business of Networking event at the Trump International Hotel, hosted by Pacific Edge Magazine and the Social Wahines group. (I'll say it again: it pays to network and make new contacts whenever possible!)

You might recognize her name from fashion columns she used to write for the Advertiser, or her prior work for the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans non-profit organization. A couple of years ago, she was faced with a career change, and went to SCORE for advice. Dennis Bunda (cousin of Sen. Bunda) became her mentor and helped her launch her own consulting business called Dream On.

Amanda is joining our show as an on-air contributor who will give tips and suggestions geared to small businesses. If you are thinking of taking the plunge, and would like to get free advice, contact SCORE first... and if you'd like to be on our show for a segment on start-up companies, drop me an email. We're looking for interesting stories about local folks who are risk-takers!

Relevant links:

SCORE Hawaii info

SBA Hawaii (Small Business Administration) loans, etc.

Dream On Consulting (Amanda Stevens)

Career Changers TV show times and other links to resources for small businesses.

Commercial Feedback Wanted

July 20th, 2010
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In the world of marketing and advertising, everything is changing. Look at the Old Spice commercial phenomenon. What started out as a funny 30-second TV spot featuring a studly macho guy addressing the ladies, has evolved into one of the most viewed online ad campaigns ever created. It's become buzz-worthy. The former football player who stars in the commercial has even been on the Ellen Degeneris show.

Similarly, "The Most Interesting Man in the World" beer commercials have struck a chord with viewers, and there's a movie script that's getting buzz, which seems to be inspired by the the TV ad creation. For the life of me though, I can't see why any television executive thought the GEICO Caveman commercials would make a good sitcom series. (That show was DOA, as I predicted.)

Meanwhile, in local advertising I haven't seen any ground-breaking stuff as far as new concepts or characters. There is decidedly more emphasis on directing consumers to websites, but locally-produced TV and print ads remain fairly traditional. Nationally, there are a new breed of agencies that specialize in creating viral ad campaigns specifically for the internet generation. The ads often don't look like ads, and are "disguised" as quirky videos or have an interactive element.

Which makes me wonder if old school ads are losing effectiveness. Are you still driven by the "offer" part of commercials, or the entertainment value of the ad?

We're always trying to come up with new angles for the Career Changers TV show I co-produce on OC16 with Ron Darby (producer of The Pet Hui and Island Driver as well), so I'm trying an experiment here and need your help...

Recently, we did a feature story on Diversified Exterminators about their pest control services. At the end we mentioned they were hiring more people for their tenting and fumigation division. They got a good response and decided to run their regular commercial on this month's episode. It's well done, but I felt that to get viewers to pick up the phone, we should add a special offer.

Here's what they came up with: Say you saw the ad on OC16 or read about it here in the Star-Advertiser, and you'll get 5% off tenting, ground treatment and/or pest control.

Is that a strong enough offer to make you consider calling Diversified for pest or fumigation services? Also, if you have a minute, can you take a look at their existing commercial and post your comments on it -- any suggestions that might make their ads better?

In future Career Changers TV shows, we hope to do more creative forms of advertising for clients and get direct feedback from viewers. Who knows, maybe we'll find a local-style version of the Old Spice guy or Most Interesting Man in the World!

Click here for the Diversified Exterminators commercial, which is posted on the CCTV YouTube Channel. For show info and viewing times, please visit our website. Mahalo!

Funny Business

July 16th, 2010
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What makes you laugh? Who makes you laugh?

When you think about it, locally, we seem to be suffering from a comedy deficit these days. Humor columns in Honolulu newspapers are now a thing of the past. We don't really have a homegrown version of the Daily Show or an Onion style parody of Hawaii news that I'm aware of.

While much has been made about the consolidation of TV news and the two daily papers, I think there is potentially more money in funny. I'd love to see some out-of-work newspaper people put together an Un-CivilBeat.com page or do a Honolulu Weakly parody, for example. In Hollywood, many aspiring writers and filmmakers have gotten their big breaks by making shorts that spoof blockbusters or certain movie icons.

Being funny in print or on demand is actually pretty hard work. As a screenwriter, I've written comedies that prompted veteran Hollywood people to say they laughed out loud, which was rare for them. But when I was on the phone with one producer, she said: "I sense you're a funny person. Not that you've said anything funny while we've been talking." I felt like she was waiting for me to deliver witty banter on the spot. However, my best lines usually come to me when I'm in the bathroom or taking a shower. Oscar Wilde, I'm not.

I bring this up because we wanted to add more humor to our Career Changers TV show, so we got writer Charley Memminger to do some on-camera pieces for us. His first, airing on the current show, was about traveling to the Mainland for job interviews. His second, which will be in the August episode, is about his experiences with the unemployment office.

As it happens, Charley just received another national honor to go along with past awards he won for his Star-Bulletin column. He took third place in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists 2010 Contest in the humor division for newspapers with over 100,00 circulation. The judge was Mike Deupree, author and former columnist for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Deupree wrote: "I was immediately receptive to Memminger's work because there is something intrinsically funny, at least to an Iowan, about somebody in Hawaii bitching about the weather."

Charley's reaction to the news was, well, typical Charley: "So I'm still the only national award-winning unemployed columnist in Hawaii."

To see him in his new gig as CCTV humor contributor, go to our website for daily viewing times on OC16.

BTW, am I the only one who thinks most of the comic strips in the Star-Advertiser are pretty lame and unfunny? (For wry, occasionally profane deconstructions of long-running comics, check out The Comics Curmudgeon.)