A True Champion for Molokai’s Entrepreneurs
Pauole-Ahukuelo recognized as best in the state
Small businesses are the foundation of the country, creating two out of every three new jobs and accounting for nearly half of America's overall employment. Small businesses are the cornerstone of Molokai and have been helped immeasurably by Annette Pauole-Ahukuelo, Director of the Kuha`o Business Center. Earlier this month, the U.S. Small Business Administration awarded Annette the Maui County Financial Service Champion of the Year.
The Business Center provides the tools with which the Molokai community can attain economic self-sufficiency and empowerment to open their small businesses. With a record of helping over 600 clients since 2004 and immeasurable far-reaching results for the community, Auntie Annette has finally been given the formal recognition she deserves.
“The awards honor the outstanding small businesses that demonstrate excellence and achievement,” said Jane Sawyer, spokesperson for SBA. Sawyer reported that the Kuha`o Business Center flourished after hiring Annette in 2004 due to “a level of dedication (to the community) that the center had not previously seen.” Sawyer mentioned that Annette “revitalized Kuha`o Business Center…and attracted new resources to sustain and build the center.” These efforts included the establishment of a chapter of retired entrepreneurs under the SCORE counseling and mentorship program which provides free business consulting services to clients.
Helped by the Molokai chapter of SCORE, Annette made collaborative efforts to train people in entrepreneurship and to offer specialized workshops ranging from agribusiness to copyright requirements.
Annette also regularly helps clients to figure out their businesses by aiding in the research of business plans, business structure and the operation of their business. Often working late into the night, Annette said that “the hardest part is helping them find the right resources. The Molokai community lacks business resources: we don’t have the big agencies you get in big metropolitan areas.”
Charlene Aquino, branch Manager of the American Savings Bank in Molokai saw the results of Annette’s work and decided to nominate Auntie Annette for the award. Aquino commented that “Ms. Pauole-Ahakuelo’s passion for learning is reflected in her self-education efforts (on) business and financial literacy. She shares this knowledge with the youth as well as the senior citizens, volunteering her time to speak to kupuna and their extended ohana about budgeting, credit restoration, and much more.”
This business-like description almost hides the heart behind the business center, which has not gone unnoticed by Molokai or the SBA. Aquino said that Annette’s “love and aloha for the Moloka’i community is reflected both in and out of the Kuha`o Business Center.” She was echoed by Sawyer, who explained that “the main reason Annette won the award was because of her work with people in the community… She’s always extra helpful and supportive, always willing to help.”
Annette said that she was surprised to win the award. Speaking with emotion, she said “I love my job, helping the Molokai people get ahead… I am exactly where I want to be, it's my calling in life to help the people on Molokai with financial and business education.”
Born and raised on Molokai, Annette Pauole-Ahukuelo remembers her days at Molokai High School with her twin sister, Beverly, as “the best days of our lives.” Back then, the sisters sat together on the student council. Now they both work within the Moore Center and are as close as ever. On April 27, they will walk the red carpet when Annette is honored at the 20th annual Small Business Administration's awards luncheon.
Congratulations Annette! You deserve every bit of praise and recognition.