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Maui Businesses Receive Honors

Five small business owners receive top honors from U.S. Small Business Administration. “I was sure I had something worth sharing.”

April 15, 2010
Sarah Ruppenthal

Each year, the SBA gives Small Business Awards at both the state and county levels, honoring outstanding small business owners, entrepreneurs and advocates who demonstrate the qualities, skills and performance to place them as leaders in their industry. According to the SBA, “Nominees for SBA awards are evaluated on job creation, growth in annual revenue, innovation, staying power, response to adversity and contributions to their community.”

This year, the winners of the SBA awards for Maui County included Brad Albert and Matias Besasso, co-owners and founders of Rising Sun Solar & Electric in Ha‘ikū, who were recognized as Maui’s 2010 Small Business Person of the Year. Rising Sun Solar & Electric is a locally owned solar electric company dedicated to increasing the health of the local environment by bringing clean, reliable and affordable renewable energy technology to homes and businesses in the community. Specializing in professional design, sales and installation of solar electric photovoltaic systems (PV) and solar hot water systems, Rising Sun Solar & Electric has pioneered solar net-metered systems throughout Maui County.

Upon receiving this prestigious award on April 9, Besasso credited the success of the company to the hard work and dedication of its employees. Gesturing to several staff members seated in the audience, he said, “We started this as two people with a dream, and now it is a dream come true—and that was made possible because of you.”

Article Photos

Posing with Mayor Charmaine Tavares, Rising Sun Solar & Electric Co-owners Matias Besasso (left) and Brad Albert are this year’s recipients of the Small Business Administration (SBA) Business Person of the Year award for Maui County. They were honored at the 2010 Economic Update Luncheon and SBA Awards luncheon hosted by the Maui Chamber of Commerce on Friday, April 9, at the Kahili Golf Club.

Albert also expressed his gratitude to the company’s hardworking staff, as well as the business community. “It is very gratifying to be recognized by the business community for years of hard work and faith that distributed photovoltaic (PV) solar power can be a significant part of Hawai‘i’s Clean Energy Goal,” he said. “Our hope is that this award will us get the word out that the choice to ‘go solar’ is a safe, reliable and inflation-adjusted investment with double-digit return.”

Noting the obstacle-ridden path renewable energy has encountered across the nation, Albert said, “Our greatest challenge is to continue to work with HECO and state and county lawmakers to keep grid access available and incentives in place.”

Bill and Maureen Marrs of Marmac Inc.—perhaps better known as the Ace Hardware in Kahului—are this year’s recipients of the SBA Family Owned Small Business Award for Maui County. The Family Owned Small Business Award recognizes small businesses with at least a 15-year history that have been owned and operated by the family. In addition, the award acknowledges a family-owned business that has seen success in creating jobs, increasing revenues and providing opportunities for other family members.

Although it faces stiff competition from bigger stores like Home Depot and Lowes, which Bill Marrs noted “are just around the corner from us,” Marmac Ace Hardware has held its own—even in a sluggish economy—by providing excellent service and products to its loyal customers, which has earned them the tagline, “The helpful hardware store.”

Leslie Mullens, president and chief strategist for Playbook Consulting Group in Kīhei, was recognized at both the county and state levels as the recipient of the 2010 SBA Financial Services Champion Award. This award is presented to individuals who have “demonstrated a commitment to increasing access to capital, reducing regulatory burdens and helping small businesses improve their financial conditions through assistance, legislative support and other advocacy.”

The PlayBook Group is a consulting firm that seeks to improve the performance of Hawai‘i’s businesses and nonprofit organizations by designing strategies that solve critical problems through strategic planning, tactical implementation and team development.

“This award is meaningful because it acknowledges The PlayBook Group’s core purpose,” said Mullens. “It recognizes the partnerships we build to make each client’s company a viable and attractive funding investment.”

Like Rising Sun Solar, Mullens founded Playbook Group with a dream—and today, her dream has not only come true, but it has also made her clients’ dreams come true as well.

“I launched PlayBook because I was sure I had something worth sharing,” she said. “PlayBook was built on the premise of improving our local economy through guidance and training in all aspects of business and capacity building. We would bring the knowledge, tools, inspiration, and innovation to clients so they could recognize and create opportunities and then be able to make the most of them.” Best of all, Mullens said, “It’s working. We are making a measurable impact with Maui’s leading businesses and nonprofits.”

Mullens’ column, “A Page from the Playbook, appears in the Maui Weekly twice per month.

Hawai‘i’s 2010 SBA Small Business Award winners will be honored with special events on all islands, and the Maui winners will join them at the 23rd Annual Statewide Luncheon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Friday, April 30, which will be hosted by the Hawai‘i Women’s Business Center (HWBC).



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