By Rich Figel
PROGRAM ALERT: The spankin' new March episode of Career Changers TV premieres Thurs., March 5 at 7:30 PM on Oceanic Cable channel 12/high def 1012, and includes an interesting profile of Judy Bishop, who recounts how she lost everything, then went off the grid in Fiji before building one of the biggest recruiting firms in Honolulu. Plus, we'll take you to PC Gamerz in Aiea, where they've tapped into the multi-billion dollar video gaming industry by focusing on social gamers. Fascinating look at a world I didn't know existed in the islands! For daily viewing times, visit www.CareerChangers.TV.
First, the good news: Seed, a "justice restaurant" in Kaimuki that we've featured on my show, got much deserved national attention when Huffington Post published an article on March 1 about a former prostitute who we interviewed last year. In fact, they used a photo from that video segment posted on the CCTV YouTube Channel (and credited us), along with the actual video at the bottom of their nice piece. All good, since we were properly credited -- unlike some recent articles and blog posts that plagiarized our CabaRAE pieces in the Feb. episode. One literally took the lines out of our host's mouth, which I scripted, and used that as the lead paragraph on his blog site! Sheesh.
Anyhow, within two days, the Huff Post article had over 20,000 Facebook "Likes" and 17,000 views of my YouTube video. As it happens, just prior to that post going national, the couple behind Seed and Bluewater Mission, had invited me to their One Year Anniversary dinner event on Monday night to thank me for "introducing Seed to the world." At the time, I didn't know Huffington Post had interviewed them and would be using my video. When I saw the link on Facebook and read the article, down towards the end I saw it mentioned they would be closing for renovations soon.
So when my wife and I met Jordan and Sonya Seng for dinner, that was my first question: when were they closing, and for how long? Turns out that night was their last dinner service for the time being. When -- or if -- they reopen depends on a couple of things. Jordan said there are a number of structural problems with the space that must be fixed, and the kitchen needs new equipment to carry on their mission of helping people like Mary, the former prostitute written about in the Huff Post story, and the ex-con we interviewed for my CCTV piece. Here's the link to the article, where you can also watch my video.
The closing seems like unfortunate timing. Ever the optimists though, Sonya and Jordan see a potential upside: they're launching a crowd-sourcing campaign to raise funds to fix the restaurant and get kitchen equipment that actually works (one of the stoves doesn't function and the refrigerator is on the fritz too). He figures it will take at least $50,000 to take care of the problems, but might look into finding another location. They're hoping the national attention will help them with donations and contributions. Seed will continue to offer catering services during the interim, Sonya said.
If you ask me, the landlord should do their part to help Seed because they've brought a lot of new business and customers into that old building. I'd venture the other small businesses and restaurants in that little complex have benefited too from the attention Seed has gotten.
Coincidentally, before I got the invitation to dinner or saw the Huff Post article, I had just finished editing the long-delayed Part 2 of my profile of the Sengs. They both have amazing life stories -- Jordan coming from a background in academia (worked for think tanks at Stanford and Harvard), Sonya being a triple threat in the entertainment field (model, singer, actor). I was able to include a little footage of her special guest appearance in the Early Edition TV series with George Takai and the star of the show, Kyle Chandler in the late 90's before Kyle went to another level as the coach in Friday Night Lights, one of the best television series ever IMHO.
Here's Part 2 of the Sengs story, and if you missed it back in November, this was Part 1. They are both a bit long (over 7 minutes) but if you take the time to listen, you'll see what motivated them to put words and Christian ideals into action. Although I have my problems with organized religion, they made me see the positive side of ministries like theirs that offer help to people who need it most.
Friend of the show, Lopaka Kapanui is also going the crowd-sourcing route for a book his wife has been encouraging him to write for a long time. The premise is there's a group of men who will cast a curse on your behalf, provided it's for a good reason that they condone. Sounds intriguing -- maybe a TV series idea? Click here for Lopaka's Kickstarter page. When I last saw Lopaka and his wife, they were at Paradise Park... which is where his halau meets and practices now. He mentioned that the owners were talking about plans to emphasize Hawaiian culture, which interested me since one of my show sponsors (Waimea Valley) has turned around their fortunes by going in that direction. I tried contacting one of the Paradise Park family owners, but never got a response. Now they're in the news because of negative blowback over their plans. Another example of poor PR. Had they gotten things right with the community first and listened to the public's concerns before announcing what they intended to do, they might have gotten some support. Sigh.
Some business owners never learn, while people like the Sengs and Judy Bishop have shown the value of community service, which also translates into good business in the long run. When I told Judy about Seed closing, she was sorry to hear it because she's hosted a couple of events there for orgs that help empower business women. We need more people like them.
Speaking of book and TV show ideas, one reason I haven't posted anything recently was my Menehune movie project was one of eight chosen for the Global Virtual Studio Transmedia Boardroom Pitch in Kona on Friday. They flew me over to present my concept, which is based on a screenplay I wrote awhile back. I had to tell some heavy hitters how it would be monetized as a franchise (movie, TV spin-offs, books for kids, educational products related to the Menehune myths, Hawaiian culture, etc).
It was a great experience that started out as a near-disaster for me! In my next post, I'll tell you more about the GVS accelerator program and some of the influential folks I met. In the meantime, here's the GVS website link to find out more. It's essentially a startup incubator for movie/TV franchises. Cool, huh?