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PBN's Women Who Mean Business 2021 AF – Pacific Business News – The Business Journals

Beverly Ament, president of Island Insurance Companies, Ltd.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Since I can remember, I wanted to be a teacher. Teaching to me has always been so important, as teachers guide and influence our future leaders. In my position at Island Insurance, I try to lead by example every day.
What was your top professional achievement in 2021? I am honored to be named as one of Hawaii’s Women Who Mean Business and included among so many outstanding and accomplished women. This is definitely a highlight of 2021.
Who was your first mentor, and what did you learn from them? My first mentor was my mother. She always led by example and encouraged me to always work hard and do my best in all my endeavors. I remember this well and have tried to pass the same values on to my daughter as well as our employees.
What has been your strategy in leading your team through the pandemic? My main goal, even prior to the pandemic, has always been to ensure the safety and well-being of our employees. With almost every employee working remotely, communication is key. I make sure to send weekly emails detailing what is happening within the company to keep them informed. From the start of the pandemic, every decision and measure we have taken is with our employees, our partner agents and of course our customers in mind. It is important to make sure we are doing all that we can to insure they and their families remain healthy and safe.
Kelsey Amos, chief operating officer of Purple Maia Foundation
What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was very young, an artist, and later, a journalist.
What was your top professional achievement in 2021? I collaborated to start a student civic engagement internship focused on local food system policy. We had our first cohort in January-May, and I learned so much. I also led the Purple Maia team in hosting an international, virtual workshop on biocultural restoration.
Who was your first mentor, and what did you learn from them? I learned a lot about getting organized as a professional and a creative person from the example of Dr. Anjoli Roy, who was the editor in chief of Hawaii Review (the student literary journal of UH Manoa) when I worked there in grad school. I’ve learned from my co-founder, Donavan Kealoha, how to stay optimistic, keep moving, and face challenges head-on.
What has been your strategy in leading your team through the pandemic? We’re lucky in that Purple Maia has always been a partially remote-working team, which meant we adapted quickly to the new Covid reality. As an organization, we are just grown-up enough to have an impact in this moment when our offerings – youth technology education, workforce re-skilling, and startup incubation – are needed. We believed in the larger vision of a Native Hawaiian-led innovation sector in Hawaii before the pandemic, and now the need to changeup our economy is even more obvious. We are trying to be of service, position ourselves well for opportunities, take care of each other, and stay compassionate.
Kawena Beaupre, vice president of Hawaii Community Foundation
What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be an elementary school teacher because I enjoyed working with children and wanted to be a part of their formative years of learning and growing.
What was your top professional achievement in 2021? My top professional achievement in 2021 was being promoted to a position that would provide me the opportunity to engage in an increased role on our management team and within the foundation.
Who was your first mentor, and what did you learn from them? I’ve been blessed to have had and continue to have many mentors in my life. One of my first mentors was my accounting instructor in college, Manu Ka’iama, who later became one of my first bosses and now a forever friend. I learned many things from her including the importance of treating your employees well and with empathy, keeping Hawaiian values at the core of everything you do, and challenging yourself to do something difficult if it will benefit others in your community. She also was a role model for me and showed me that a Native Hawaiian female can achieve all of her goals and aspirations – spouse, children and successful professional career – and that one is not exclusive of the other.
What has been your strategy in leading your team through the pandemic? I am fortunate to be a part of a small but mighty team and to be succeeding a boss who emulates the type of leader I want to be, especially during a time of crisis. Some things we’ve been intentional about are staying connected through team and one-on-one check-ins; focusing on the whole person not just work-related matters; showing compassion for individual needs and circumstances; and expressing appreciation for each person’s work, dedication and efforts.
Monica Belz, chief executive officer of Kauai Government Employees Federal Credit Union
What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a professional snowboarder, an international human rights lawyer, and a firefighter. Never in a million years would I have guessed I would become a businesswoman, working in finance. However, the work I do is community development finance, so under that lens, I am not surprised at all. 
What was your top professional achievement in 2021? Our team deployed millions of dollars in financial aid to keep thousands of people across Kauai in their homes, alleviating some of the substantial financial burden caused by Covid-19.  We worked tirelessly alongside the County of Kauai, KIUC, YWCA, and many others in this monumental effort. We also became Kauai’s only Community Development Credit Union, opening up access to a lifeline of funding from the U.S. Treasury. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. We showed up and we made a difference. 
Who was your first mentor, and what did you learn from them? My mother. She taught me to trust myself. She taught me to dream big in life.  She taught me that no matter hot it gets, to keep going. She showed me what unconditional love and grace look like, when and how to fight for what’s right, and to always ask questions.  I learned how to do life from my mom, and how to empower the next generation to do even better. 
What has been your strategy in leading your team through the pandemic? Trust myself. Trust my team. Empower and support everyone’s superpowers and let these superpowers take us where “no woman has gone before.” My role is to identify needs, listen to people, step up and figure out a solution, rely on innovation and cooperation, practice emotional intelligence, manage fears and be an authentic leader. This pandemic has been the greatest opportunity to live out our DNA and purpose — to truly find our relevance as a community owned, not-for-profit 100% local bank.  
Lee Buenconsejo-Lum, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii at Manoa
What did you want to be when you grew up? Since age 12, I wanted to be a doctor. During residency, I chose a career in academic medicine as I hoped I could have a larger impact by helping train physicians that cared deeply for all communities and patients throughout Hawaii and the Pacific.
What was your top professional achievement in 2021? Seeing our medical students and residents/fellows graduate on time and ready to serve, despite the disruptions caused by Covid-19.
What has been your strategy in leading your team through the pandemic? Careful listening, creative problem solving using the best-available evidence, frequent communication even if we did not have all of the answers, empowering others to make the right decisions for the common good (learners, faculty, staff, patients, communities.)
Cathy Camp, group senior vice president and division manager at Central Pacific Bank
What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a physician for as long as I can remember. I wanted to be able to help people, plus I enjoyed the intellectual challenge. Unfortunately, while in college a bunch of people I was working with during a summer internship program suggested I go into health care administration. As I aged, I decided I wanted to be a mother and be married to my family versus being married to medicine (as they say). I still wonder if I should have followed my childhood dream — but I must admit, I am very proud to be able to serve our community in ways other than through medicine. 
What was your top professional achievement in 2021? Just prior to the pandemic, I changed employers and was learning the inner workings of a new organization, a new position, a new industry, and a new corporate culture. The pandemic hit and with the loss of tourism and mandated government closures, many businesses were struggling and their lifeline was getting support through a Paycheck Protection loan. I knew I had to do my part in securing funding for Hawaii’s businesses. I was immersed into the world of processing thousands of PPP loans, working many nights until 2 a.m. It was like watching an hourglass empty its sand — there was limited time and limited funds. I knew I had to do my part in helping our community as thousands of businesses and countless jobs were at risk. It was definitely a team effort as we mobilized to process over 7,000 applications, more than any other local bank.  It was an extremely stressful time, but in the end we helped our community.  It was my initiation into banking! 
Who was your first mentor, and what did you learn from them? My first mentor was Cora Tellez, the president of Kaiser Permanente’s Hawaii Region. As a very young executive in my late 20s, I was eager to learn how to be the best leader and Cora was instrumental in helping me grow in my role by providing guidance, support and feedback to help me thrive in my role. She was a dynamic leader who had to prove herself being a woman immigrant leader.  
What has been your strategy in leading your team through the pandemic? My strategy in leading my team through the pandemic was multifold. My first priority was to be kind and empathetic to my team’s concerns and questions. Many team members were struggling with juggling working from home and home based learning for their children. This was followed by open, transparent communication. Finally, team member engagement was critical, especially with so many working remotely. Keeping that members feeling part of a team without being physically connected, getting cameras enabled on computers to be able to visually see each other, and finding activities to bond us as a team, especially with so many working remotely. We were all in this together and it was new uncharted waters. 
Jamie Cheng, SVP, director of bank operations at American Savings Bank
What did you want to be when you grew up? Growing, up, I wanted to be a teacher like my mom. She would sometimes come home exhausted after a long day (and long commute), but you could always tell how much she cared about her kids. At the end of the day, that’s the ultimate reward — to find your purpose at work doing something that you care about.
What was your top professional achievement in 2021? My biggest achievement this year was leading my team through a second round of Paycheck Protection Program lending. We learned a lot from the first round and worked to automate our back-end operational processes to increase speed and efficiency in acquiring much needed funds for local businesses.  
Who was your first mentor, and what did you learn from them? My first job after graduating from law school was as a law clerk at the Hawaii Supreme Court for Justice Mario Ramil. I was so fortunate to start my legal career with someone who was so accomplished yet humble and caring and who took the time to mentor and shape the careers of so many young attorneys. I hope to be that kind of leader who always remembers that people are the most important part of my job.  
What has been your strategy in leading your team through the pandemic? As a leader in bank operations, creating a sense of shared purpose for my team in an environment of constant change and uncertainty was the biggest priority. It was that shared sense of purpose and the feeling that we were all in it together that made our teams put in the extreme amounts of discretionary effort needed to pull us through one of the most challenging years of our careers. 
Tiera Covington, president of Integrated Facility Services Hawaii
What did you want to be when you grew up? Surprisingly, I recently stumbled upon an old homework assignment over 20 years ago and I wrote that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I hadn’t discovered what my skills or talents were at that time. All I knew was that I wanted to have my own company. It’s really unbelievable that my childhood dream came true. 
What was your top professional achievement in 2021? It has truly been an amazing year for me and my team! I am grateful for all the recognition that we received [from PBN]. We were recognized among Hawaii’s Fastest Growing Private Businesses for 2021. This year I was selected to be an honoree for the Women Who Mean Business and also the Business Leadership Hawaii Business Leader of the Year. It is such a privilege to be recognized with so many remarkable individuals. I was also given the opportunity to be on the cover of the Building Management Hawaii – August issue and was able to share the story of Integrated Facility Services Hawaii. I am so grateful for the people that have supported us and gave us a chance.    
Who was your first mentor, and what did you learn from them? Jim Tilley was my boss 20 years ago at ABM. Jim gave me the opportunity to learn each position of the company. I was placed wherever the company needed me. Jim created a culture where employees felt valued and wanted to be there. He was an example of a leader that I wanted to be like. You could see that he was proud to watch his employees grow. That is what gives me joy as an entrepreneur. 
What has been your strategy in leading your team through the pandemic? I’ve been encouraging our employees to participate in various charity events and to making a difference in our community. Although this pandemic may bring sadness to many, it has given us an opportunity to come together as a company and make a positive impact in the lives of others. 
Sandra Fujiyama, senior manager at University of Hawaii
What did you want to be when you grew up? A pediatrician. I love the sciences — I’ve always had an interest in how things work, figuring out the right formula, and solving problems. I also enjoyed working with and mentoring kids, whether it be coaching sports or tutoring at school. Combine these two passions and a profession as a pediatrician felt like a natural choice.
What was your top professional achievement in 2021? Spearheading the grant proposal that resulted in securing $2.7M in funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration so that the University of Hawaii can expand its work to help our community recover from the pandemic and diversify the economy through innovation, entrepreneurship and workforce development programs to build a stronger, more resilient and vibrant economy for the future.   
Who was your first mentor, and what did you learn from them? My mom. She taught me resiliency – how to tackle life’s challenges and thrive, while remaining true to who I am. 
What has been your strategy in leading your team through the pandemic? Stay focused on executing our office’s mission to bridge connections and build meaningful partnerships between the University of Hawaii, the community and the world, strategically advance discoveries, and inspire innovators and entrepreneurs to create new opportunities for Hawaii – and concurrently incorporate agility, flexibility, resilience and perseverance, in order to quickly respond, adapt and keep moving forward during these challenging times.
Terri Funakoshi, chief operating officer of YWCA
What did you want to be when you grew up? Growing up I wanted to be a teacher, just like my mother. I saw the positive impact and influence she had on her students and the happiness it brought her to see their success. Although I didn’t pursue a career in education, I feel fortunate that my path has enabled me to realize my passion for teaching through my volunteer work, speaking, doing educational workshops, and mentoring young professionals and entrepreneurs.
What was your top professional achievement in 2021? My top professional achievement this year was turning the Covid-19 pandemic into an opportunity to help our local community. My team and I came up with an innovative strategy that included community collaboration with a focus on small business recovery and workforce development. We submitted our strategy to a national foundation and were awarded $1.5 million. This grant funding will help break down barriers to success for our small business owners and help their job seekers increase their skillsets and become more employable.  
Who was your first mentor, and what did you learn from them? My first mentor was my father — I was captivated by his transformational leadership style. I watched him lead and inspire his team, challenge the process, enable others to have a voice and develop employee capacity to ensure their personal and professional success. I attribute my foundation of leadership to the mentorship and influence of my father. 
What has been your strategy in leading your team through the pandemic? The leadership strategy that continues through the pandemic is keeping our employees healthy and safe. We identified well-being as the key and made a commitment to focus on employee needs that assured flexibility. We increased communications, added personal and professional check-ins, emphasized our culture of caring by aligning employees on the mission and values, invested in the employee’s environment, increased professional training, provided needed tools and technology, and lead with resiliency, creating an ecosystem of strength for the agency.
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