Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurs’ Category

Wasting Waste is Wasteful

September 2nd, 2015

PROGRAM ALERT: I feel like I should have a BUZZ... BUZZ SOUND EFFECT followed by a robotic voice mispronouncing Hawaii town names like the red-banded TV flood warnings that crawl across the screen and cut-off the audio to whatever program you're watching -- including, ironically, the local TV news "SEVERE WEATHER" alerts. And yet there are still clueless idiots who will be out there hiking despite all the advance warnings, so maybe the only ones heeding the dire forecasts are people who are already safely ensconced on their comfy living room couches watching TV.

ANYWAY, back to my originally scheduled program alert. The new "Going Green" themed September episode of Career Changers TV premieres at a new time tonight, Weds. at 9 PM on Oceanic Cable channel 12/high def 1012, otherwise known as OC16 (not to be confused with OC16 Sports, which is on channel 16/high def 1016... so you will not find OC16 non-sports shows, including mine, on channel 16 as you might expect). Other daily viewing times, which have also been changed and are subject to preemption by high schools sports (which are NOT shown on OC16 Sports, as you might think they would be) can be found at the CareerChangers.TV website.

For anyone who is suffering from "severe weather fatigue" -- correction: people aren't fatigued by the non-events so much as they are tired of the TV news reports or suffering from anxiety induced by the ominous RED BLOTCHES headed almost, kind of directly at our tiny little islands, OMG, we have to head for higher ground!!! Oh, sorry, excuse me. As later pointed out by the TV forecasters, there is a margin of error of 150 miles when they are talking about "hurricanes" or tropical depressions that are five days away from reaching us...

ANYHOW, if you've grown weary of watching local TV non-news, we have some segments that are about people who are doing more than just talking about the weather -- they're developing new technology and approaches to reduce waste and create alternative energy sources right here in Hawaii.

When the local TV newscasters weren't hyperventilating about the latest "possible" weather threat or running another somber update on the homeless issue (the homeless are still there -- or somewhere else now; it's like the weather, the news reports don't really do anything other than tell you what you can see with your own eyes) they seemed happy to have some real rain run-off and flooding stories to provide relief from having to watch them stand in front of weather maps and radar screens, or worse, stand outside somewhere in Hilo while patiently waiting for a deluge... or at least intermittent showers.

Yet in all the reports about the millions of gallons of raw sewage and wastewater flowing into our oceans, was there a single story about alternative systems that could actually make use of that wasted wastewater? None that I'm aware of, and I record or watch all three TV news stations.

As it happens, thanks to Karl Fooks, President of the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation, I was introduced to the Energy Excelerator program and Lamplighter Energy. Never heard of them? You're not alone. Those kind of stories get short shrift in the local news media landscape, unless they are located at the site of a major crash, on fire or flooding at the moment. But they should be getting more coverage because they're doing important work that in the long term could make a difference for all of us.

How, you ask? Okay, start with all the wasted sewer wastewater that gets treated, then dumped in the ocean. Did you know there is actually a pilot program at the Hawaii Kai sewage treatment plant that can convert wastewater into hydrogen fuel? What's more, it traps the lovely methane odor you smell when the winds shift, and also turns that into non-smelly fuel (here's the video link). Lamplighter Energy is going to use the same technology to take the existing Kunia sewage treatment plant offline, and replace it with a hydrogen-producing system to provide fuel and power for the farm operations there. Here's a link to the lower res YouTube version.

And there are interesting projects being nurtured by the Energy Excelerator too. One of them we're featuring is about Prota Culture, which is growing insect larvae that feeds on discarded organic waste. The larvae are then processed into nutritious animal feed that could lead to increased production of homegrown chickens, pigs and fish because the biggest cost to local farmers is paying for feed that has to be shipped to Hawaii. Reason: with our high land costs, it doesn't make sense to grow soy or corn for animal feed. But if we can use our food waste to make animal feed that can be processed right on the farms (without using insecticides and chemical fertilizers associated with growing soy/corn) we won't be as dependent on importing food and feed from the Mainland... I mean, what if THERE'S A HURRICANE OR TROPICAL STORM THAT INTERFERES WITH OUR FOOD SHIPMENTS, OMGGG!!!!

Phew, just looked out the window and the sun is shining. So, if you'd like to watch our segments online instead of waiting to see it on TV, you can click here for the Energy Excelerator piece and Prota Culture story.


North Shore Fun, Rain or Shine

July 22nd, 2015

One thing you may not know about the Waimea Valley summer movie series and concerts is that the show goes on, rain or shine. Which is an important consideration if you have to drive a long way to get there, given the recent "iffy" weather conditions. Last week, I wanted to see Surf's Up! because who doesn't want to watch a movie about the world of competitive penguin surfing? However, it was raining pretty hard on the Windward side and I thought it might be a wash-out.

No worries though. Don Brown, who handles the movie showings, and the crew at Waimea Valley had it covered -- literally. Instead of having the audience spread out on the lawn, they faced the screen inwards toward the pavilion where the Haleiwa Farmers' Market sets up on Thursday afternoons prior to the movie. After the vendors packed up their wares, lots of families stuck around for the free family movie, courtesy of Waimea Valley's ongoing community outreach programs to bring more locals into the park on a regular basis. And why not take advantage of it if you're looking for things the whole family can do without spending lots of money?

Next Thurs., July 30, they'll be showing Lilo & Stitch. For details, here's the link to our promo spot. BTW, Haleiwa Farmers' Market, which precedes the movie nights, made another Top 10 Best Farmers' Market list as reported in today's Star-Advertiser:

Congratulations to Haleiwa Farmers Market for being included in food52’s “10 of America’s Best Farmers Markets.” Food52 is an online site dedicated to all things cooking. A travel article on the site notes that the Haleiwa market is “one of Oahu’s Premiere Green Markets,” with vendors using inventive packaging to replace plastic bags, food vendors using bio-compostable plates and utensils, and shoppers being encouraged to bring their own bags. The market is one of four run by FarmLovers Farmers’ Markets, owned by Pamela Boyar and Annie Suite. The other markets are in Kakaako, Kailua and Pearlridge. For the complete list of food52 picks, go to

Unfortunately for me, I was unable to stay for Surf's Up! when the rains hit Waimea. I had scheduled a night shoot at the Polynesian Cultural Center, where Brett Lee just started offering Stand Up Paddle tours of the lagoons when the sun goes down and the villages are closed for the evening. It was clear in Laie, so I figured we should film before the rains moved down the coast. The surfing penguins would have to wait for some other time.

The segment we shot on the night SUP tours will air on my August episode of Career Changers TV. You might recognize Brett's name from an earlier piece we did about the Hukilau Marketplace and how he started his North Shore activities biz by winning a business plan competition at BYUH. He used the prize money to launch his Hele Huli Adventure Center at Turtle Bay -- which just unveiled their new mountain bike trails and pump track (here's that video link). Brett's North Shore Explorers biz at PCC is also tied into the new Courtyard Marriott Hotel next door to PCC, which had a soft opening a couple of weeks ago. Guess who runs the activities desk there? Yep, Brett!

night SUP horizontal

Getting back to Waimea Valley for a moment, just a reminder that there are still tickets available for this Saturday's afternoon concert featuring Pomai Lyman, Yoza and local diva, Melveen Leed. Here's the promo spot we did, which includes info on prices (cheap!) and hours. Since they set up canopies on the lawn, you don't have to worry about sun stroke if it's hot or getting wet if it sprinkles a bit. Like I said, they've got you covered either way. And it really is a beautiful place to enjoy local music if you can get away for a few hours this weekend!


For daily viewing times of my Career Changers TV show, visit our website. You can also watch segments from past and current episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which has over one million worldwide views and is growing each month. Advertisers, contact me directly if you want that kind of exposure at affordable prices!

TV, Film Startups Help

March 18th, 2015

As producer of the Career Changers TV show, I've been following the startup movement the past four years, which has mainly been driven by high tech applications for computers and mobile devices. First, there were incubators to help nascent companies develop their business plan. Then accelerators sprouted up around the country that offered seed money, office space and mentoring, in exchange for equity in startups they hand-picked (usually a 5 to 10 percent stake). Events such as Startup Weekend brought together like-minded entrepreneurs who would pitch their ideas to actual venture capitalists, angel investors and business consultants.

While filming segments on Blue Startups and Henk Rogers of Tetris empire fame, I saw similarities to what writers and filmmakers must go through to sell their TV or movie projects to producers. Many of the same principles apply, like the attention-getting premise or "elevator pitch" that succinctly sets up the concept and the synopsis that spells out what makes this project different or better than similar ideas. But in the TV and movie biz, the script was pretty much the entire franchise plan for the writer. Tech startups live or die based on "proof of concept" and demonstrations of their new product, service or app.

However, with the explosion of multimedia options -- or "transmedia" -- writers and filmmakers suddenly had plenty of other means to get their projects noticed in Hollywood: short films shot on high def video cameras, movie trailer style pitches for unproduced projects, YouTube, webisodes that can transition to mainstream TV, crowdfunding sites, etc. So it was only a matter of time before there were accelerators specifically created to nurture entertainment franchises. We now have one in Kona called Global Virtual Studio Transmedia, which had its first accelerator cohort last year. I learned about it after the application deadline had passed, but was invited to pitch a project for their GVS Boardroom panel event on Feb. 27.

I've been writing scripts for a long time, and had some minor success. Yet I haven't been able to get over the hump. I've often felt the missing ingredient was that to sell my scripts, you had to "see" it because they were written for the big screen and incorporated spectacular visual images -- such as locations in Hawaii related to the legends of the Menehune. Anyhow, I decided to submit a proposal for a franchise based on my feature screenplay, "Stinky Feet and the Secret of Menehune Gulch."

Since I had gotten good responses to prior email pitches I wrote for that script, I adapted my e-queries for the GVS submission and fleshed it out with images of Kauai's lush valleys, dramatic cliffs, underground lava tubes, and what might pass for a Menehune village. The GVS accelerator offers $50K over a six month period to each of the six teams they will select for the next cohort in the fall, which is a very nice incentive for fledgling screenwriters and filmmakers. In exchange for providing funding, facilities in their Kona studio, plus mentors with lots of experience and Hollywood connections, the project creator gives 10 percent equity in the franchise to GVS... which is a strong incentive for GVS to make it work too.

Backing this accelerator, is the State Dept. of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, which also has a major stake in seeing winners emerge from the program. Two of the top DBED&T officials -- Georja Skinner and Karl Fooks -- are taking a hands on approach, as I found out when I was selected as one of the eight presenters. Although our pitches were NOT being judged as part of the application process for the next cohort, we were told the feedback should be used to hone our franchise concepts to address questions that would be brought up by the specially-assembled panel. Besides Georja and Karl, there was a former Disney and Pepsico exec, a former marketing exec for Sony Pictures, and people with major movie experience sitting in the audience of about 50 people.

To say I was nervous is a bit of an understatement. I hate speaking in front of groups, and have never been comfortable pitching my TV or movie projects to industry people. But I felt confident in my Menehune concept, and I thought the Power Point I put together right before the event was good.

There was just one problem. When the presenters were gathered to do our run-through, we had to use their system to show whatever media we had. Instead of a laptop with the Presenter's View mode for my Power Point slides (which includes "Notes" at bottom you can use as a cheat sheet) all I had was a keyboard and a big monitor screen slightly behind me on my right side. They gave me a clicker to advance the slides... which had a slight delay. I had printed out my "Notes" text to consult, i.e. read from, if I got nervous and forgot the scripted lines. On top of that, we were limited to exactly five minutes for our spiels, and there was a GVS staffer to my left holding a digital clock.

So I'm trying to remember my lines, checking my printed-out notes, glancing back at the slide on the screen to my right -- crap, that's not the right slide! -- looking back at the clock ticking down to my left, clicking the clicker back a slide, then another... and I realize I'm not even halfway through before my time is up. This is why I hate public speaking. I could feel the pity from the other presenters. All of them did their run-throughs in one shot with not much problem. Me, I was asked to stay behind and do it again. Ugh. How embarrassing.

The second run-through was slightly better after I switched to using the keyboard to advance my slides. It was still running long though, so I knew I had to ditch the scripted "Notes" text and refer directly to the outline or visual images on my Power Point slides when we did it in front of a live audience -- and cameras. Which is another thing that gives me stage fright.

Minutes before show time, I considered bailing. Rather than stand in front of a crowded room and make a sputtering fool of myself, I could just say I felt sick and wouldn't be doing my presentation. The other seven projects were very impressive, and those people had better credentials than me -- or so I told myself. "Stinky Feet"? What was I thinking! Yet part of me knew years of rejections, failures, and even ridicule as a kid, had prepared me for this moment. I started off a little shaky, relying too much on reading my notes. Then when I had to refer back to my outlined thoughts on the screen behind me, I loosened up and got through it okay.

The panel then spent 12 minutes asking questions and commenting on my pitch. The former Disney exec immediately said he had never heard about Menehune, and was so fascinated by the myths that he felt it could be a TV series. The former Sony Pictures guy said he loved the concept. After I explained why the lead kid character is nicknamed "Stinky Feet" by a local bully, I confessed that it got left out because I was terrible at pitching. "I disagree," the Sony guy interjected. "When you stopped reading your notes, your passion and knowledge of your subject really came through!"

Later, Big Island Film Commissioner Ilihia Gionson and his significant other came up to me. He said he really liked my Menehune project even though it's set on Kauai. She said she voted for mine as her favorite of the eight presentations (I didn't win that vote -- a martial arts movie project by a Big Island filmmaker got the audience choice award). But there was one more twist after I returned home to the other Kailua...

The next day, I got an email that said, "Great Pitch!" in the subject line. In my Power Point, I included my email address on the last slide that said, "Pau." You never know, right? It turned out an audience member with contacts in the movie and TV business loved my concept and disagreed with panelists who said it should be a $10 million dollar movie, not the $100 million budget I guess-timated. She wrote that I should stick to my vision of a big movie about little people, and not make it a smaller project just to fit the accelerator's business model. They know it's almost impossible to sell a $100 million project even if I was able to use the accelerator to create a dynamite movie trailer or short film to promote it. But a $10 million film is something they could realistically help set up, and their 10 percent stake would pay dividends.

I want to believe this person who contacted me has the connections that can move my Menehune project forward as a big budget film. If not though, I'd be happy to see it made even if we have to dress up little people like Polynesian Munchkins instead of the expensive CGI "Lord of the Rings" type dwarves, trolls and elves I originally pictured for my Menehune village scenes. And maybe that's the best thing about the GVS Transmedia accelerator... it gives writers like me a chance to dream of seeing our work be brought to life, even if it's not exactly what we hoped for.

McKinley Books and Music Sale This Weekend

January 16th, 2015

Friends of the Library of Hawaii is holding a three-day sale of more than 40,000 records/CDs and over 10,000 gently-used books to help support literary and public libraries throughout the islands. It will be in the McKinley High School cafeteria at 1039 S. King Street, from 9 AM until 3 PM on Sat., Jan. 17 and Sun., Jan. 18. On Martin Luther King Day, Mon., Jan. 19, they'll wrap up sales between 9 AM and 1 PM. Collectors are already planning to line up early to get first crack at possibly finding rare albums and books. Kudos to all the Friends volunteers and the Hawaii State Federal Credit Union for putting together this event!


Haven't been posting lately because my 27-inch iMac, which I love, was in the shop for a week. Mac Made Easy in Kailua diagnosed the problem and had to order a video graphics card from Texas because it's a 2009 model. Not sure if the Apple Store at Ala Moana could have fixed it sooner, but I didn't want to drive to the other side and have to lug my large screen iMac through the mall crowds. I could imagine some shopper with their eyes fixated on a cell phone walking right into me and sending my machine crashing to the ground. In Kailua, I just have to watch out for Japanese tourists on bikes crossing my path.

When I got my "old" iMac back, it was like seeing my wife after she had been gone for awhile... well, maybe not quite that emotional. But I really did miss my computer and couldn't get into writing on my tiny back-up laptop or iPad. At first, the repaired iMac seemed fine. Then a little later I noticed the right half of the screen was darker, as if covered by a shadow. I fiddled with the brightness control, moved it around, and it remained dimmer on one side. I Googled the problem, and it turns out many iMac owners reported the same glitch. They complained that Apple would not admit it was a known issue related to the 27-inch screens and was charging about $500 to repair it if not covered by warranty... which always seem to expire just before your computer goes on the fritz. In the future, I'll have to get the extended Apple Care plan I think. Sigh.

Anyhow, after shutting down the computer and rebooting, the dimming has lessened and is barely detectable. Yet it makes me wonder if Apple's famed quality control has been slipping the past couple of years. Anyone have thoughts on that?


This month's Career Changers TV episode happens to be related to computers and business education programs. We've partnered with DevLeague, a coding bootcamp, to promote what I believe is a great alternative to 4-year college computer science programs. I'm a proponent of getting a well-rounded liberal arts education -- if you can afford it, and aren't sure what you want to do for a career, that is.

But if you're interested in website design, building apps for smart devices, or becoming a startup entrepreneur in the high tech field, what you really need to know is computer coding. Nothing beats hands-on experience and small classes with guidance from professionals who know what companies are looking for in programmers and website developers. DevLeague does exactly that, and to date, they say all of their graduates have succeeded in finding employment after completing the bootcamp or their longer 24-week "part-time" program (still pretty intensive though!).

You can see that video segment on the CCTV YouTube Channel or by clicking here.

Also, we've got a sponsored story about Remington College's new Business Administration program. They consulted with local companies, big and small, who are part of their Program Advisory Committees, and revamped the biz courses into three tracks that address the needs of potential employers in Hawaii.  Their instructors have MBAs and solid real world work experience themselves -- stuff you can't learn just from text books. Here's the link to that piece.

For daily viewing times of my show, visit www.CareerChangers.TV. Have a great weekend -- and check out the McKinley Book & Music Sale if you're out and about!

Success and Happiness

December 4th, 2014

TT and Surf Santa

PROGRAM ALERT: The new December episode of Career Changers TV premieres Thurs., Dec. 4 at 7:30 PM on Oceanic Cable channel 12/high def 1012. You can find daily viewing times on www.CareerChangers.TV and watch segments from past or current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Plus, we have some gift suggestions from our sponsors that would make great stocking stuffers!

For our Christmas show, I got to interview Martin & MacArthur CEO Michael Tam and Pictures Plus/Plus Interiors CEO Kent Untermann, as well as magician/professional Santa Mike Ching (pictured above with CCTV host Theresa Tilley at M&M's Ward location). We also did an update on Mermaid Kariel's latest spin-off venture -- custom made mermaid tails. Turns out there is a big demand for functional tails from aspiring professional mermaids, who are willing to pay upwards of $3-5K to shake their waterproof money-makers in pools or aquariums all over the world!

What they have in common is they're successful at what they do, and you really get the sense that these are people who are genuinely happy with their occupational choices. Yet each has had to overcome challenges, difficult business climates at times -- recessions, 9/11, changing social norms or personal tastes -- and evolve to stay in the game. Where they find their individual motivation and strength varies, but they all exhibit the same characteristics: discipline, perseverance, and a a clear vision of their long range goals. For instance, Kent cites lessons he learned as a football player at UH as a major reason he was able to weather ups and downs in growing Pictures Plus into Plus Interiors. And he's not shy about commenting on the current state of the UH athletic department in the piece we did on him (click here).

However, as a former football player and ultra-competitive person myself, I know it can be hard to be "happy" when you're driven to win in sports or business for that matter. If you're not number one in what you do, every loss seems like a nagging reminder of mistakes made or personal shortcomings... the dreaded could'a/would'a/should'a self-talk that pervades your daily life. So what is the key to being successful and being happy at the same time?

A recent scientific study I read says happiness is exceeding expectations. That's pretty much it in a nutshell. The more you expect, the harder it is to be happy. That seems like such a no-brainer you wonder why they even bothered to do research on it. But when you think about the current perception of UH sports, for example, it makes perfect sense. We've seen what UH teams and athletes are capable of doing, and our expectations have grown. I remember going to my first football game at Aloha Stadium in 1986, not long after I moved here from New York City, and the Bows were playing Big Ten powerhouse Michigan. To this day, I will never forget hearing that "RAIN... BOWS!" call and response chant filling a stadium of over 40,000 fans as Dick Tomey's underdogs stood toe-to-toe with Michigan for three quarters before finally succumbing late in the game. They lost, but no one expected them to be even close -- so it felt like winning.

Kent had graduated by then, so he wasn't on the field for that battle. Still, he remembers the feeling from his own UH football days and he believes we shouldn't lower our expectations by dropping sports or going to a lower division. And that's the paradox of life I think... on one hand, unless we strive for achieving more than others expect of us, most of us won't be happy just settling for what we know we're capable of doing. On the other hand, it hurts like hell when you reach for the stars and fall flat on your face.

As a writer, I'm constantly torn between wanting to be successful, i.e. sell screenplays that become big movie hits, and staying true to my artistic aims of producing original work that is at least different than the usual cookie-cutter formula movies making money at the multi-plexes these days. So to keep myself sane, every month I write two quotations at the top of my desk calendar: "Write with no attachment to outcome" and a zen saying, "When you cease expecting, you have all things."

Anyway, check out the new Career Changers TV show this month! Hopefully, watching it will exceed your expectations.