In 2001, Kari (my wife) and I had started a business importing in a Taiwanese drink product called bubble tea. We achieved major growth and our distribution covered North America, Hawaii, Guam and Saipan. We structured the company so that it allowed us great income and incredible flexibility. By 2003, I was 30 years old and thought I had it all. I had a successful business and my wife had just given birth to our first son. I was even able to find time to coach girl’s pole vault at my alma mater.
That was where I met a very influential business man. I found out that this gentleman owned over 12 businesses including ownership in the San Francisco Giants, Honolulu Star Bulletin, shopping centers, numerous magazines, a radio station and the list goes on. It just so happened that I coached his daughter in pole vaulting so we ended up meeting at a school event. I was really excited to set a meeting with him to learn how to make more money and become more “successful”. At that point in my life that was all I was really concerned about.
The meeting started off really well. He told me how he got started in business and did multi-million dollar real estate deals in his late twenties. We talked about other business ideas, our business and then he shared with me two secrets which I will share with you.
The first secret was leverage. Using leverage in the right way is crucial to business success. We were talking about scholarships so he explained it to me using that as an example. The non profit foundation that he founded helped student athletes obtain college scholarships. He explained that an employee getting paid a competitive salary could get a student a full ride scholarship over $100,000. With a few thousand dollars per month, he used leverage and turned it into 30 or 50 times more value. It’s the same concept used in real estate investing. Let’s say one invests $20,000 in a $100,000 piece of property and the property appreciates in value 5%. The 5% of $100,000 is $5,000 which turns out to be 25% of the $20,000 invested. Wow, leverage was great. I was soaking this stuff up. I got really excited for the next secret. Are you ready?
The second secret was that he doesn’t do any business venture unless it helps out the community. I was waiting for another profound business concept and this is what the secret is. I was stunned to say the least. I thought business was all about conquering, strategy and execution and your community involvement was something done separately. This was definitely a new concept for me. He explained how truly helping the community is what really made him successful. This is something that I’ve been thinking about ever since that day. How can I make a difference, help the community and tie it into business? That is how this all began.
I thought that if businesses can partner with non profits or community organizations in a way that benefits their bottom line profits, everyone would gain. Then add in the media to promote these relationships and the people behind them. The media added the leverage for the ideas and growth of this type of thinking. It seemed like a winning formula. With everyone helping each other, it becomes a self sustaining cycle that creates a competitive advantage for Hawaii and is extremely hard to duplicate elsewhere. I pitched the idea in entrepreneurship class and someone brought up that there was no obvious gain for the media to promote this. I thought about it and said that the media gains because the community gains and if their advertisers adopted this mind set then it’s in their best interest to support them. I guess that didn’t fly well so I thought of another idea. I would start a company that would become the media. I wrote a business plan in May of 2005.
Greater Good Radio is a joint effort to use leverage to help businesses help the community in ways that will also benefit their bottom line profits. This is what is now called social entrepreneurship or dual bottom lines. How does this leverage actually work? We interview the top entrepreneurs and find out how they became successful. Then we find out how their community involvement was crucial to their success. By recording these interviews, archiving them and making them available through radio, print, internet and satellite we are taking their message to thousands of people forever. Now they can mentor people at a ratio of 1:100,000 instead of 1:1. That in turn will inspire new leaders and the cycle will continue. We will help develop people’s business and entrepreneurial careers and implant a social message and call to action at the same time. We will grow socially conscious business leaders. It is very, very exciting.
It is now two years later and after completing my Executive MBA at the University of Hawaii I know what my dharma or purpose in life is. The first is to bridge the leadership gap via Greater Good Radio. The second will be to revolutionize the way business education is taught in school.
Profits from Greater Good Radio will help fund what we are calling The Kokua Project. This project is designed to create additional revenue for the schools, produce higher quality graduates and create a self sustaining cycle for years to come. An example through the University of Hawaii will be student run businesses. Why not start a restaurant where the award winning KCC Culinary School designs the menu and supplies the staff. The business students can put together the business plan. Marketing students can write a marketing plan along with the implementation of PR. The accounting and law students will handle their area and the business community will act as mentors. Every four years the business can be sold, relocated or close and reopen so that students can experience all the stages. We can even go another step and have the ingredients supplied by community organizations such as Ma’o Organic Farms. Ma’o is an organization that helps the youth of Waianae by providing them with entrepreneurial, agricultural and education. That way the whole value chain supports our Hawaii community.
This will do a number of things. Students will get hands on training for college credit so when they graduate they will already have experience. The school will receive additional revenue that can be used to expand programs, professors and financial aid. The University will also produce a much higher ratio of leaders to employees than the current situation. Because of this, the University will be able to increase its out of state tuition due to an increase in demand. This will allow for resident tuition to remain affordable for Hawaii’s youth. This concept can be applied to e-business, executive education and much more. It can become a model for the rest of the world to follow.
Some of you may be thinking that we’re getting ahead of ourselves with The Kokua Project. That’s a big goal to accomplish. We absolutely agree. Success in this initiative is dependent on many things. We need a large number of people to get involved, step up and help us make a difference. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. That step has just been made. We’re honored to have your support.
Mahalo nui loa,