Top businesses honored with SBA awards

POIPU — Jane Sawyer, district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, was asked Monday, “Does winning an SBA award mean there’s money for a bigger parking lot?”

The comment drew laughter from the crowd of more than 200 people who gathered at the ballroom of the newly blessed Koloa Landing Resort for the Kauai Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours event to honor Kauai’s winners of SBA Awards.

Sawyer announced John and Kristina Ferguson of the Kalaheo Coffee and Cafe as the Small Business of the Year for the County of Kauai.

“It is so important to honor our small businesses,” said JoAnn Yukimura, who along with Derek Kawakami represented the Kauai County Council in congratulating the honorees. “Imagine Kalaheo without Kalaheo Coffee and Cafe and its contribution to the economy.”

Sawyer said there are a lot of small businesses in the state — 96 percent of businesses in Hawaii are “small business” who employ more than 50 percent of the current workforce.

Starting in 1994 with the help of Larry Dressler of the Bank of Hawaii, and Tom Canute of First Hawaiian Bank, Kalaheo Coffee has grown to offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, employing 40 people — 10 full-time, said John Ferguson, chef and owner of Kalaheo Coffee.

“I’m not used to this,” said the chef, who has handled a number of large events like the Rotary Club of Kapaa’s Taste of Hawaii. “I’m usually the guy behind the stove, pushing out the orders for customers. We thank all of our customers who make it possible for us.”

Laura Cristobal Andersland, owner of the Salty Wahine Gourmet Hawaiian Salts, is in Japan for a trade show, said Julie Kim of First Hawaiian Bank who accepted the award for Exporter of the Year, one of nine SBA state awards.

“Laura started her business in 2008 with just $800,” said Kim, branch manager of the Waimea Branch of First Hawaiian Bank. “I was impressed with her ability to grow the business from such humble beginnings into the success story it is today. Her mission of ‘making eating healthy fun’ using locally available products, including fruits, herbs, and spices, for her premixed gourmet seasonings, takes creativity, stamina and passion.”

The event was sponsored by Layton Construction whose Dale Keep said came to Kauai because of the work they were committed to do for the Koloa Landing project.

“We liked what we found,” Keep said. “And, over the period of 10 years and building Koloa Landing, Layton has explored other markets and expanded to the Outer Islands, hiring people we met through Kauai Chamber of Commerce functions. What can we build for you?”

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