Marynel Valenzuela is all about fashionable printing

arynel Valenzuela, president of Ink Spot Printing, juggled between thoughts of the Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce Recognition of 2017 Awardees and Installation of Board Members, customer orders, and results of a printer that is being considered for expanding the array of printers at the Lihue print shop.

“Monday was a holiday,” Valenzuela said. “This is just a catch-up day.”

Kini ‘Okahokuloa “Kini” Zamora, an award-winning international and local designer, Project Runway finalist and all-star, will be the featured speaker at the Awards and Installation Gala which takes place Saturday at the Aqua Kauai Beach Resort starting at 5 p.m. Zamora will speak on “The Importance of Believing in Yourself and What it takes to be an Entrepreneur and Fashion Designer.”

How did you end up getting to meet Kini and working with him?

Anyone who has passion for fashion probably knows who Kini Zamora is. As one of the designers for Project Runway Season 13, and Project Runway: All Stars Season 5, Kini is a famous fashion icon.

My affiliations with the fashion industry brought me closer to Kini and through Randy Francisco, who was still the president of the Kauai Chamber of Commerce in 2014, formed a committee for the Hawaii Fashion Month-Kauai which I am a part of. Kini brings a whole new level of inspiration to many aspiring artists. (Francisco is the current executive director of the Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce, and employed with the county’s Office of Economic Development)

Last year, we were blessed to have Kini join us at the HFM-Kauai Symposium during the Creative Industries Month.

As an advocate for the fashion industry, how did Hawaii Fashion Month impact Kauai?

Design District, a product produced and published in Florida, features art, design, fashion and entertainment (Marynel has a copy available). Through the efforts and collaboration of designer Sha Ali Ahmad, and Sue Kanoho of the Kauai Visitors Bureau, international fashion photographer Natasha Kertes joined us at the last Fashion Weekend in May and planned this photo shoot at Mahaulepu.

We are grateful to Boyd and Gaylene Gayagas of the Grove Farm Company for granting access to the site where the beautiful Kathleen Kozub, a young and promising model wearing Sha Ali Ahmad’s creations of Ahmad Couture and assisted by Desiree Duclayan Parsonson, and make up by Stephanie Bond, was photographed, resulting in several full-page color spreads featuring not only fashion, but Kauai.

How did you get involved with the fashion industry?

My first job ever was an on-call sales associate/floater with Liberty House (now Macy’s).

I got sent to different locations, and different departments wherever help was needed. It was totally a fun job for me. Then, I became a regular at the swimwear and Polynesian department at the Kukui Grove Center store.

Working at a department store didn’t help me much with my savings. If I worked four days in one week at 3-5 hours per day, you can expect me to be shopping a few hours before or after my shift. I pretty much spent my paycheck before I received it.

I owned several beautiful designer muumuu dresses by Mamo Howell, to name a few.

That was my motivation to work harder.

In addition to your work with the fashion industry, what other areas in the community are you involved in?

I am currently serving as a vice president of Kauai Hospice board. I have been a member of the board of directors for the past 8 years, and a member of the sales and marketing committee.

I’m also a past president of Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce, the financial secretary of Kauai Philippine Cultural Center, a former board member of Kauai Filipino Community Council, and a member of several other nonprofit community organizations.

What is your background?

I am the eldest of five girls. I was born in Ilocos Norte, Philippines, and raised in Caloocan City, Manila.

Together with my mother and sisters, we migrated to Hawaii in 1986 to be with my father who has been here since 1976.

Arriving to Kauai was a big shock to me and my sisters — we thought we were going to America with tall buildings, malls and cinema, etc.

My dad came to the old Lihue Airport and picked us up by himself. We expected to see our cousins and other relatives to welcome us but he came alone. He kept it from everyone that we are arriving.

He drove us home to an old Lihue Plantation house, sort of like the jungle. Old furniture, no bath tub, two basic wooden chairs, no couch — something different from the Philippines.

He gave us a great life when we were living in Manila. We had everything, abundance of food, a big house, we had maids, and even a driver.

When we arrived to Kauai, we often grumbled to my mom while my dad would hear our complaints. He worked very hard and sent us almost everything that he earned just so we can enjoy everything back home while he worked double jobs.

I had no idea that he was hurt to learn how unhappy we were to be in Hawaii.

I learned to appreciate the little things that we had. We basically started our lifestyle all over again.

I went to Kauai High School and experienced semi-bullying during my first few months in school (I didn’t know that was called bullying then).

Coming from Manila, where fashion is more advanced than Kauai, kids used to look at me strange. I didn’t understand why, but they said I was not in their dress code. No school uniforms back then, and the majority of the students go to school with slippahs (slippers). On the other hand, I wear fancier tops, not just T-shirt, and always had matching shoes.

I wasn’t too happy going out just wearing a simple T-shirt.

When I was younger, I always wanted to be a doctor or a surgeon. However, that dream changed when we came to Hawaii. We didn’t have the means to put me through college. My mom didn’t work and my dad worked for the Lihue Plantation.

I got some scholarships from high school through the help of the late Mrs. Rosalina Arzadon but I didn’t know I could have applied for more, participating in the Miss Kauai Filipina scholarship pageant.

Before graduating in Sales and Marketing, and Business Management from the Kauai Community College, I was already working for Nordstrom as a shoe buyer/manager.

I got transferred to Kaneohe and managed the Windward Mall Shoe Rack. This was a fun job. I was in the fashion world, again; I attended buyer meetings which I enjoyed so much; I had access to the latest trends of shoes as well as ready to wear; I met vendors who gave me free samples all the time. If not free, I could buy at cost. I earned so much shoes — probably as much as Imelda Marcos.

I don’t really know how the wheel turned to a different direction as I was growing up. I ended up in the printing world which I never thought I would.

You are also president of Ink Spot Printing. How did you get involved in the printing/publishing business?

I’ve been employed at Ink Spot since March 1997, the same year I got married to my husband of 19 years, Rommel Valenzuela.

I didn’t plan to work at Ink Spot.

I only went there one morning to bring a print job for a friend. Tom Brown, the owner of the shop at the time, approached me in the corner of the shop while I was patiently waiting for my turn to be helped. We were casually talking, which turned into a job interview. He offered me a job to be a graphic artist.

I was confused. I wasn’t there applying for a job. However, the following week, I was convinced — I don’t know how, but I took it as a challenge. I told him, ‘I will work for one week but NO pay me — I just want to observe.’

So I did just that. I worked eight hours or more each day at no pay.

It wasn’t easy because Ink Spot was a busy print shop. Everything was new to me. I was learning everything from scratch. However, I love challenges, and I am not a quitter either so I guess, that’s when I said “Yes, I’ll do it.”

I am still here today, and happy that I did what I did!

With the help of my very supportive husband, two wonderful daughters, Zhanelle and Khrystelle, sisters, cousins, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, friends, former and current Ink Spot employees whom I considered my family — we all managed to keep this business for another 13 years since I took over from Tom Brown. I am forever grateful to all them for I couldn’t have done all these and endured this long without their help. I am also very thankful to have our loyal customers and friends from the community who continue to support small businesses like us. We have a great supportive ohana on this island. We are just very lucky to be here.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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