Bennett reigns as SBA women’s champion

Coming from the high-intensity business world of the Mainland, Barbara Bennett found Hawai‘i a welcome change.

That was 10 years ago, and though she’s always been an advocate of women in the workplace, she credits the relaxed atmosphere of island business culture for at least part of her success.

“I came from the East Coast, where the business is very high-powered,” Bennett said.

“Here, the business personality is more about the people, which I love. You nurture the people, and that nurtures your business.” In recognition of her efforts, Bennett recently received the U.S. Small Business Association’s Women in Business Champion of the Year Award for Kaua‘i and the state of Hawai‘i.

As a single mother of six with a 50-year career, Bennett said she has long been aware of issues facing women in the workplace.

“I’ve always been an advocate,” she said. “I have great empathy for what we do as women, and surviving in the market place.” Five years ago, Bennett helped establish the Women in Business Roundtable, a loose forum designed to support professional women through mentoring and networking.

Already an active member of the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce, Rotary and the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau, Bennett found room for more.

“I didn’t see another organization that had the personality of the Women in Business Roundtable,” she said.

“It’s not as structured. There’s no hierarchy,” Bennett said.

“It’s just a committee that’s passionate about supporting women.” A veteran of several diverse industries such as food and beverage, fashion, boating, and visitor publications, to name a few, Bennett, an account executive for the Kauai Island News, only settled into newspaper advertising sales two years ago.

She also co-owns a Curves for Women franchise on O‘ahu with her oldest daughter, a business they bought with the help of an SBA loan.

“We couldn’t have done it without the loan,” she said.

While retirement can’t be too far away, Kaua‘i can always count on Bennett in other areas, the Waimea resident said.

“The first thing I did on this island was become an avid volunteer,” she said. “This island is all about volunteering, because it’s made up of people who care.”

Ford Gunter, business reporter, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or


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