Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Makers Movement and More

April 1st, 2014

Makers pix

PROGRAM ALERT: The new April episode of Career Changers TV premieres Thurs., April 3 at 7:30 PM on OC16 (channel 12/high def 1012). For daily viewing times, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch segments on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which now has over 200,000 views and is climbing each month. Contact me directly if you're interested in advertising on the show or being a featured sponsor!

Above is a photo of my videographer, Stanford Chang, shooting b-roll of the first-ever Honolulu Mini Maker Faire at Iolani School on March 15. Despite the obsolete spelling of "faire," it has nothing to do with medieval times or making miniature fairy sprites -- although they did make mini-robots and small 3-D printed objects for demo purposes. There were also knitters and do-it-yourself types who work in all types of mediums, from film and virtual reality to woodworking, metal and molded plastic.

So what is the Maker Movement all about? Watch the show or view the segment to find out! We also did a separate piece on the Hawaii Inventors group, and three of the products they had on display at the event. BTW, hats off to Iolani School for hosting the Mini Maker Faire, which was actually spread out over two floors of the Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership. What was cool is the faculty and students seem to have a creative flair themselves, as evidenced by their homage to Frank Sinatra... in the elevator of all places!

Sinatra elevator

Above is the back wall of the elevator, which plays Sinatra music and has other visual references to his recording career, courtesy of #iolanihackers. While we were filming, there were a number of students who were working on various high tech projects that weren't a part of the Makers fair. I also saw younger kids who signed up for Makers workshops that taught soldering. So one thing you can say about the Makers Movement -- and Iolani School -- is that they both take an eclectic approach to creativity.


In the same episode, we have a segment about the fun and quirky Hound & Quail shop on Kapiolani. Never visited it before? Actually, it's not that easy since they're only open three hours each week on Monday due to the partners' full-time professions. Mark Pei is a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines. Travis Flazer works for the theater department of Punahou School -- er, "Theatre" I mean... another old-timey English spelling like "Faire." No wonder foreigners think English is confusing. Here's the link to that video.

Anyhow, if you're wondering what the story is behind the name, there really isn't anything specific -- other than their interest in taxidermy, including mounted birds and other animals that had me thinking about Norman Bates in PSYCHO. But Mark and Travis are really nice, intelligent, normal guys... well, just a tad off center, perhaps.


WAIMEA VALLEY NEWS: On Sat., April 5 at 10 AM, they will be officially dedicating the renovated amphitheater to Rudy Mitchell. "Uncle Rudy" has been an integral part of the valley's history and vision, according to Richard Pezzulo, Waimea Valley Executive Director. You can learn more about the restoration of the amphitheater (not "amphitheatre") and other new developments by watching the piece we did back in February (click here).

Small Packages Lead to Big Box Plant

March 10th, 2014

Rengo (medium)

One of the Job Quest job fair stories that didn't make it into this month's Career Changers TV show is posted on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which has now topped 180,000 total views and averages more than 28,000 views per month. But many of our business-oriented stories fly under the radar and don't get much attention because they don't have a built-in following from social media or they shy away from publicity.

Such was the case with Rengo Packaging. Never heard of them? Neither did I, so when I spotted their booth at Job Quest, I went over to investigate who they were and what type of jobs they were looking to fill. Turns out this was the company that sprung up after Weyerhaeuser closed the Honolulu box plant in 2008... well, actually, there were some important interim steps along the way. First, 13 former Weyerhaeuser employees formed Hawaii Box and Packaging to act as a distributor, but weren't producing the boxes locally. Then in 2011, they were acquired by Rengo, the largest corrugated box manufacturer in Asia. Rengo decided to build a new plant on Oahu that was scheduled to open this month and start making boxes by June 1. Here's the link to the video segment. They are looking to hire 30 to 40 new employees -- no small thing in Hawaii's job market.

The reason I took a personal interest in their story was back in 2008 I was deeply involved in the beach access movement because some residents in Kailua put up a locked gate on a "private" beachside lane that neighbors had been using for years to get to the beach. I met Scott Werny, who was the Surfrider Oahu co-chair at the time, and he helped me organize the statewide Groundhog Day rallies that generated a good deal of media attention for the cause. His day job was being a packaging engineer at Weyerhaeuser -- which fascinated me since you don't often think about what goes into designing something as simple as a box. Yet there's a myriad of factors that a designer has to take into account for each product.

After Scott got word the old W plant was closing shop, he told me about the small group that was going to form their own company to continue as a distributor. But he acknowledged it was risky, and it was no sure thing they would succeed. A few months later, Scott was hit with more unexpected bad news. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Friends rallied to support the young father of two kids, yet he asked us to make donations to the National Parkinson Foundation on his behalf instead of focusing attention on him. That's the kind of person Scott is.

It had been a couple years since I last spoke to him, so I asked Rengo's Operations Manager Glenn Masaki if Scott was still working for them. Yes, he said. Scott is their one and only packaging designer, and his Parkinson's is under control. Later, I caught up with him on the phone and he sounded great. His personal life was in transition again (divorce, moving to a new place) while his professional life is doing well now that Rengo has given them the capital and resources to build their new plant at Campbell Industrial Park with about 4 acres under roof.

So, next time you get a pizza delivered or buy a box of locally-made candy, chances are Scott and his co-workers at Rengo were the folks who are responsible for the packaging. It's a testament to the resilience of hard-working people in Hawaii, who didn't give up when a big company decided to pull up stakes... or when personal challenges confronted them. If you would like to make a donation on Scott's behalf, here's the link to the National Parkinson Foundation site. Progress has been made in treating the disease, but there is still no cure.


For daily viewing times of the new schedule for Career Changers TV, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV.


Excellence Personified

January 31st, 2014

PROGRAM ALERT: The new February episode of Career Changers TV starts airing Sat., Feb. 1 at 8:30 PM on OC16 (channels 12 or high def 1012). For Valentines Day, we've got features on Watanabe Floral, what's new at Waimea Valley, plus a segment on tattoo removals for those who want to get rid of inked reminders of love gone bad!

People who read my blog know I like to gripe. But I do so in the naive hope that if enough people complain about stuff that should be fixed or improved, positive things can come out of it. And I'll tell you who gets it -- Mayor Kirk Caldwell. I had a chance to interview him for my Career Changers TV show while we were shooting at the Job Quest Job Fair on Wednesday. (BTW,  came across a couple of really interesting news stories that will be on the March show!)

I've been impressed so far with the job he's done, and he comes across as a likeable politician on TV. Which always makes me suspicious. It's one thing to perform well on camera or say all the right things at photo opps. Yet not every politician or government official has that ability to connect with constituents one-on-one during brief encounters. The first thing the Mayor did was study my business card before he began answering my questions. He tailored his responses to the theme of careers, even working in how he went from law to public service and why he feels being Mayor is the "greatest job in the world."

When I asked how he felt about criticism, he didn't hesitate in his answer. He says the second you begin to push back against negative criticism, you lose the battle because the focus should be on listening to the complaints and doing what you can to address those problems. Of course, you can't satisfy everyone and solve every problem overnight. But he seems genuine in his passion for the work he's doing. Kirk also showed real verbal ju jitsu skills in deflecting my question about his bigger career goals, i.e., whether he intended to run for higher office in the future... say, Governor?

He smiled and said, his only concern right now is being the Mayor and living "in the moment," which he feels is good career advice in general. And he's right. Too often we get caught up looking down the road or thinking ahead instead of doing the best job we can today at this very minute. I was thinking about that last night at the UH men's basketball game against Long Beach State. After coming off two impressive road wins, fans were stoked and getting caught up in scenarios of the 'Bows running the table at home to put them on top of the conference. Problem was they didn't take care of business on the defensive end of the game last night. I also thought the coaches were reluctant to put in other players who might have brought in that attitude they were lacking to make stops and show more hustle on defense.

Sometimes teams -- in business, government, sports -- rely too much on their "star" players, and forget that people in supporting roles can spell the difference between excellence and mediocrity. I was reminded of that again this past weekend. My wife, Isabel, and I had tickets to see Keali'i Reichel perform with the Hawaii Pops Orchestra last Saturday night -- a nice treat from their Executive Director, Donna Bebber, because we ran a segment about Matt Catingub and Hawaii Pops in November  (click here for that video). We had a pre-show dinner at Kincaid's, which smartly lured us back after we dined there during the holidays by giving us a $20 gift card -- no minimum amount, no special hour restrictions. The food has always been good-to-excellent on past visits, and our server was friendly, professional and not pushy or too intrusive.

Unfortunately, when my wife cut into her opakapaka it was undercooked. Everything else on the plate was good, so when she pointed out the underdone fish to the server, he quickly rectified the situation. Since the rest of her food was fine, he simply transferred the opakapaka to another plate and had the cook fix it. Then after dinner he offered us a free desert as compensation for the problem, and again apologized for the kitchen's mistake. It may seem like a small thing, but in other restaurants we've been to, the server would have just grabbed the entire plate and left my wife sitting there twiddling her thumbs while I continued to eat.

Anyhow, when we got to the convention center for the concert, we were listening to the UH basketball game on the radio. They were playing at UC Irvine and had made a terrific comeback to put them in overtime against a team that features a giant center who stands 7 feet 6 inches tall. Most UH fans didn't get to see it though because it was only available on a special Oceanic cable sports package (which we get and recorded to watch later). However, as we entered the convention center parking garage, we lost radio reception. I hurried towards the center interior holding up my iPhone to see if I could get a wireless connection -- and who do I see trying to do the same thing? Jeff Portnoy, the UH basketball radio commentator for home games!

Jeff's significant other was able to get a connection and told us the Bows had won. So my wife and I were very happy going into the Keali'i concert. Later, when we watched the replay on TV, I saw how the UH bench contributed to that victory with timely defensive plays and strategic fouling of the Irving giant center (who bricked his foul shots). That is what it takes to be an excellent team -- you need role players who are ready to do the small things when the starters falter.

As for the Hawaii Pops concert, my wife said it was maybe the best birthday gift I've ever given her. Keali'i was wonderful. Funny, self-effacing, humble, and of course, there's that beautiful voice... and the beautiful spirit he seems to emanate on stage. What made it even more wonderful though was the subtle backing of the orchestra instruments. They were never overbearing or distracting. They played their supporting roles perfectly, as did the musicians and hula performers that make up Keali'i's performing troupe. You had the feeling that each and every one of them was totally focused on their respective role as part of the whole experience.

It was excellence personified that night, from the dinner at Kincaid's, to the Bows' win at Irving, to the Hawaii Pops concert. Who says I only gripe about things?


To see more examples of excellence at work, check out the new Career Changers TV show! For daily viewing times, visit www.CareerChangers.TV or check out video segments on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which is now getting over 15,000 views per month. For advertising rates and info, email me at

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The "D" Word

January 3rd, 2014

HYS photo

It's a new year, and the new Career Changers TV episode premieres Sat., Jan. 4 at 8:30 PM on OC16 (which is now channel 12 or 1012 if you have high def). The common theme that runs through this show -- and all our success stories for the most part -- is a word that rarely gets mentioned, but is often the underlying reason why some achieve their goals and others slide back into old habits or just give up. That word is discipline. For many, it has a negative connotation. You think of being disciplined as a punishment. Or it conjures up images of military-like rigidity and conformity. Yet when one becomes disciplined in the study of arts, sports training, mastery of a craft, what that constant practice and repetition actually does is free your mind and body to be more creative when confronted with challenges because you don't need to think about doing the basic mechanics.

In our January show, we have feature segments on the Hawaii Youth Symphony, an interview with the co-author of "Top Dog - The Science of Winning and Losing," and a piece on Roberta Oaks, a self-taught fashion designer who has a boutique in Chinatown that is doing quite well. In all three stories, it's easy to see how discipline pays off for individuals in their chosen professions. What many parents may not realize is how getting their children involved with music education at an early age can lead to all kinds of side benefits that aren't necessarily related to a potential career in music. The kids we met, and watched in rehearsal and concert performances seemed focused, mature, well-mannered, but were obviously having fun too. Here's the link to the YouTube version (looks and sounds much better on TV though!).

In the "Top Dog" segment, Ashley Merryman shares some fascinating insights into research on competition -- for instance, why kids in rural areas score higher on standardized tests... the difference between how boys and girls learn to play as kids, which carries over into adult life... the way "home field" advantage actually can affect business negotiations and raise requests. What it boils down to largely is whether you perceive a competitive situation as a threat or a challenge. If you see it as a threat, your physiological response is different than when you take it as a challenge you can rise to.

I was thinking about that when I watched Johnny Manziel lead his Texas A&M football team in an incredible comeback win over Duke in the Tuesday night bowl game. It wasn't just what he did on the field though. The cameras showed him on the sideline getting in the face of not just the players on offense when they were down by 21 points in the first half -- he then got into the defense, yelling at them that the game was theirs to "take" after he led them on one touchdown drive. Then he stood on a bench and began exhorting the faithful fans, the vaunted A&M "12th Man." He told his team mates at halftime to forget about the score, and not even look at it. He didn't get negative on them. Heck, I'm no big Aggies fan, and to be honest, based on some off-the-field incidents involving Johnny Football as he's known in Texas, I thought he was kind of a punk. But during this game, I became a believer too -- and a fan of his. Can you teach someone to develop those kind of leadership skills and competitiveness? Not entirely -- some are just born with it. Yet Ashley contends research proves people can get better at dealing with nerves and perform better under pressure if they study the science of competition. (Click here for her story, which is actually Part 2 of the interview we shot at the American Psychological Association conference in Waikiki last year.)

As for our story on Roberta Oaks, she seems very much like a free spirit -- an artist at heart, who turned from photography to fashion on the Mainland before landing in Honolulu and starting her own fashion line of both women's wear and men's shirts (guys, check them out -- very smart, trim look so you need to be in decent shape to wear them). But it became obvious to me that she has a strong work ethic as well, and is very disciplined about how she uses social media and her personal network to promote her business. In fact, she tells me she was designing fashions for wholesale retailers on the Mainland before moving here, so she's had a taste of the big time as well. She also mentions her art work as an influence on her designs, and any artist will tell you it takes discipline to transform a concept to a finished piece no matter what the medium is. You can also see her segment on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which now averages over 6,000 views per month.

We're looking for new sponsors and startup businesses that want to be on local TV and also get worldwide internet viewers at the same time. If that sounds like you or someone you know, please drop me an email at Our rates are very affordable, even for small biz, and most of our clients have been repeat advertisers who have been very happy with the results! For daily viewing times and other useful info, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV.

Save this date: Sunday, Nov. 24

November 6th, 2013

The Pacific Gateway Center is having their 4oth Birthday Celebration on Sun., Nov. 24 from 5 to 9 PM at Keehi Lagoon Memorial Hall. There will be Asian Pacific cuisine, entertainment and a who's who list of movers and shakers that have helped PGC in their mission to assist thousands of immigrants, refugees and low income residents find work or start new businesses over the years. As part of the 808HALT coalition on human trafficking, I've had the privilege of working closely with the PGC staff and can tell you they truly make Hawaii a better place for all of us.

The cost is $45 per person, but if you can't attend, please visit their website (click here) or call them at 851-7010 to make a donation. In light of recent cutbacks due to sequestration and the government shutdown, like many non-profits, PGC has had to tighten their belts and make changes in their operations. Part of that was moving their offices from the N. King street location to their Kalihi kitchen incubator site. They turned over their Lemongrass Cafe restaurant to Andrew Le, who is transforming the space into his first brick and mortar version of The Pig & The Lady, which has been a hugely popular food stand at the KCC, Blaisdell and Kailua farmer's markets.

Not coincidentally, my new November episode of Career Changers TV features a segment about Andrew and how he went from an interest in art to formal culinary training -- after working for free at restaurants just to get some hands-on experience before he committed to making a career out of his passion for food. For him, it really is art on a plate. You can watch the small screen YouTube version by clicking here.

In the same show, we also have a great piece on maestro Matt Catingub and the Hawaii Pops (here's that link). We included some brief musical interludes from their "Songs of Bond... James Bond" concert, but I wish we had more time to include performances by Cathy Foy-Mahi, Kristina Souza, Nathan Awaeau, and Sheena Easton. They actually had to add extra seats for late-comers who bought tickets at the door. I suggest you check out their site, and order tickets for the remaining concerts before those sell out too!

BTW, due to some technical problems, the Career Changers TV site still hasn't been updated for the November show. In the meantime, you can see segments from the current episode on the CCTV YouTube Channel (daily OC16 times listed on the website are still the same).