Cohort 1 Mentors

Meet our mentors! By working with a mentor, entrepreneurs are three times more likely to stay in business. A 2018 MicroMentor Impact report found that 75 percent of entrepreneurs globally who received mentoring increased their revenue and 82 percent survived their first one or two years in business, a crucial hurdle for startups.

Vik Acharya

Len Higashi

Len Higashi is founder of Edge Velo LLC, a Hawaii-based technology and innovation consulting firm. Len has a diverse background including executive business and technical leadership roles for both startups and large corporations in Hawai‘i and on the mainland. Most recently, he served as the Executive Director for the Hawaii Technology Development Corporation where he established the $60 million Hi-CAP venture capital and loan program, constructed the Entrepreneurs Sandbox, mentored dozens of startups, and led technical assistance and grant programs supporting hundreds of small businesses. Len has a BS and MS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan State University and the University of Washington, and an MBA from the University of Hawai‘i.

Brian Kealoha

Brian Kealoha is the Chief Growth and Impact Officer of VEIC, a national nonprofit focused on clean energy solutions. Brian leads the organization’s growth strategy, policy initiatives, and marketing and communications. Brian has been involved in the energy sector for more than 25 years, a visionary leader with a passion for climate solutions and a strong record advancing clean and efficient energy programs.

 

Prior to joining VEIC, Brian served as executive director of Hawai’i Energy, the state’s energy efficiency program. His work at Hawai’i Energy catalyzed the island’s clean energy economy and drove to include everyone in the transition, particularly rural and low-income residents across the state. Before Hawai‘i Energy, Brian launched and managed the Hawai‘i division of Chevron Energy Solutions, serving as regional director. Brian also spent many years with various utilities developing and implementing energy programs which include Pacific Gas & Electric, Avista Utilities, and Hawaiian Electric.

 

Brian holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in both Economics and Marketing, as well as a Master’s in Business Administration from Gonzaga University and a certificate in negotiation from the University of Oxford. He currently serves on the boards of the Chamber of Commerce Hawai‘i, the Friends of ‘Iolani Palace, and on the steering committee of the Diamond Head Classic.

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Stanley Lau

Stanley Lau is the Founder of Hawaii Tech Support, a Hawaii-based technology company focused on protecting businesses from cyber threats and partnering so the businesses are effectively utilizing their technology. Stan has over twenty-five years of experience in technology in areas including security solutions, systems administration, software development, project management, and technology consulting. As CEO and Founder, he leads a team of passionate and fun-loving technologists and the IT consulting firm that was twice recognized as one of Hawaii’s Fastest 50 growing companies, Healthiest Employers, and Best Small Family-Run Business. Stan earned his Bachelors of Science in Computer Science and Engineering from UCLA and was recognized by PBN as one of Hawaii’s 40 under 40.

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Sandy Narvaez

Sandy Narvaez is the Market Director of Leisure Sales for Marriott Hawai‘i & French Polynesia, leading leisure travel strategies for 20 Marriott International hotels through the Hawaiian Islands and French Polynesia.

 

With over 16 years of experience in the areas of hospitality and travel, she has held previous executive positions as Director of Sales and Marketing at The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach, the Hilton Waikiki Beach, and the Doubletree by Hilton Alana Waikiki.

 

Born and raised in Mililani, Sandy graduated from Mililani High School and earned a dual degree in International Business and Marketing at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and is currently attending the Richardson School of Law in pursuit of a Juris Doctor degree. She currently serves on the boards of the Shidler College of Business Alumni Association, Women in Lodging & Tourism and the Oʻahu Visitors Bureau Advisory Board. She is passionate about supporting local businesses and mindfully sharing our culture with the world.

 

She most enjoys spending time with her husband and three beautiful children.

Vik Acharya

Edward “Eddie” Ontai

Edward (Eddie) Ontai is the President of DataHouse. He possesses a remarkable tenure of over thirty years in executive management, significantly impacting the IT and nonprofit sectors through visionary leadership and strategic innovation. A passionate servant leader whose life purpose is to enable others to be successful.  Proven expertise in every level of organizational leadership, including strategic, operational, and administrative. Has a heart for people and the skills to navigate teams through challenges so they can exceed their potential. Always team player willing to let others bask in the limelight while celebrating behind the scenes.

Kurt Osaki

Kurt was born and raised in Kapaa, Kauai and attended Kapaa High School. His years growing up on Kauai were spent around his grandparents’ restaurants – Tony’s Charcoal Broiler and Tony’s Delicatessen, both located on Rice Street.

 

Kurt graduated from the University of Hawaii with a BFA in graphic design and later attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, majoring in design, packaging, with a focus on environmental design.

 

Kurt established Osaki Design in 1995 specializing in corporate and sports branding. Currently, he has offices in the Bay Area and Honolulu and his clients include professional sports teams, sports leagues, universities and corporations throughout the United States and Japan.

 

One of his major accomplishments came in 2000 when he and his team designed the “H” logo for the University of Hawaii. His philosophy has always been simple. “Good design is a product of form, function and good service.”

Erin Uehara

Born and raised in Mililani, Erin Kanno Uehara, grew up LOVING chocolate. It was her go-to snack through school and work. Erin received her Bachelor’s Degree in Education from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and became an elementary school teacher. Her other passion growing up was dancing ballet, jazz, contemporary, and hip hop. This hobby turned into a career as a Dance Instructor. After teaching, Erin worked at the Pacific Center for Advanced Technology Training at Honolulu Community College while getting her Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the Shidler College of Business.

 

Through all of her chocolate snacking, never did this chocolate lover think she would one day actually learn how to make chocolates and then co-own a chocolate company with her husband and a long lost family member. Through all of these tremendous blessings, Erin feels each of these opportunities have allowed her to do God’s work, love her work, and love people. This continues to be the case with her chocolate company, Choco le‘a.

 

When not working with chocolate, Erin enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading her bible, dancing, hiking, traveling, eating, and doing anything with her husband, Chris, and their baby girl, Aubrey.

Eric Yeaman

Eric Yeaman is the Founder and Managing Partner of Hoku Capital LLC (Hoku). Hoku was founded in August 2019 to provide strategic advisory services (including M&A) and to invest in local and national venture capital, private equity and real estate opportunities. Prior to Hoku, Mr. Yeaman was the President and COO of First Hawaiian Bank from 2015 to 2019. At First Hawaiian, he oversaw Strategic Planning, Investor Relations, Retail Banking, Consumer Banking, Enterprise Technology, Enterprise Operations and Bank Properties. He was instrumental in assisting First Hawaiian (NASDAQ: FHB) in becoming a publicly traded company through its IPO and multiple secondary offerings totaling over $3.8 billion. Prior to joining First Hawaiian, Mr. Yeaman was President and CEO of Hawaiian Telcom from 2008 – 2015 where he successfully led the company through its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings and its process to become a publicly traded company (NASDAQ: HCOM). He also led the company’s return to profitability and growth as well as its transformation to become Hawaii’s technology leader with the launch of Hawaiian Telcom TV, 1 Gigabit internet speeds, data center and advanced cloud-based services. Prior to these roles, Mr. Yeaman served as COO of Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc. from 2007-2008, CFO of Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc. from 2003 – 2007 and COO/CFO at Kamehameha schools from 2000-2003 before beginning his career at Arthur Andersen LLP from 1989 -2000.

 

Active in community affairs, Mr. Yeaman currently serves as the Chairman of the Board of Alexander & Baldwin (NYSE: ALEX), and as directors of Alaska Air Group (NYSE: ALK), DR Fortress, Lanihau Properties, LLC and Palani Ranch Company, Inc. He is also on the nonprofit boards of the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation and Friends of Hawaii Charities.

 

Mr. Yeaman was honored by the Sales & Marketing Executives of Honolulu as the 2017 Salesperson of the Year and was also honored as one of the University of Hawaii Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni in 2016. He was also named Hawaii Business Magazine’s CEO of the Year for 2011. In 2010, he was inducted into the University of Hawaii’s Shidler College of Business Hall of Honor.

 

Mr. Yeaman was born and raised in Kona, Hawaii, and earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree (with distinction) in accounting from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and is a certified public accountant in the State of Hawaii.

Cohort 1 Speakers & Trainers

Meet our speakers and trainers! Each is an expert in their field with decades of experience. Our monthly sessions will cover the following topics: Business Model Planning, Funding 101 and Federal Funding, Financial Accounting, Talent & Culture, Marketing, and Legal.

Stacey Katakura

As CEO and Founder of Accumulus, Stacey Katakura brings an unmatched level of accounting and financial advisory experience—having previously served for three years as President of HiAccounting, a division of The Hawaii Group, and for ten years prior to that as Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Forest City Hawaii, a real-estate development and property management company responsible for over $2 billion in Hawaii real-estate and renewable energy projects.

 

Stacey is a licensed CPA in Hawaii and California, is a graduate of Kaiser High School, and earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Southern California’s Kenneth Leventhal School of Accounting. Stacey began her career in the Orange County, California offices of Ernst & Young, in the firm’s Real Estate, Hospitality & Construction group.

 

Stacey actively supports local community organizations and is currently on the board of directors for the YWCA and the Women’s Fund of Hawaii. She volunteers on numerous political campaigns and was named one of Pacific Business News’ Forty Under 40. Stacey is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Hawaii Society of CPA’s.

 

In her free time, Stacey enjoys spending time with Bogey her pug, hiking, yoga, pilates and traveling.

John Knorek

John L. Knorek, a Director at the Torkildson Katz, provides counsel and representation to large and small employers in all aspects of employment and wrongful discharge law. His practice also includes collective bargaining negotiations, affirmative action compliance, mediation and arbitration. He provides training to businesses on employment discrimination and preventative personnel practices, including family leave, disability law and sexual harassment. Mr. Knorek is a founding co-editor of the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce’s Desk Manual for Employers and its Model Employer Handbook.

 

A few representative cases that Mr. Knorek has handled include: ALSCO, 124 LA 1545 (2008); French v. Hawaii Pizza Hut, Inc., 94 FEP 1072 (Haw. 2004); Welch v. Hawaii Medical Services Association, 89 FEP Cases 1172 (D. Haw. 2002); Ogden Services, 111 LA 250 (1998); Courtney v. Canyon TV & Appliance Rental, 899 F.2d 845 (9th Cir. 1990); Council of Hawaii Hotels v. Agsalud, 544 F. Supp. 449 (D. Haw. 1984).

Mari Villa

Mari has 20+ years of successful grant writing, fundraising, grant-compliance, and business development experience.

 

She has a master’s certificate in Journalism from Michigan State University; bachelor’s in Mass Communication from the State University of New York Oswego; and two associate degrees in Journalism and Business Management from the University of Hawaii Leeward.

 

She has been a radio, television, print, web, and social media journalist and news producer. As an adjunct professor and college instructor, she taught: communication; writing; editing; photography; journalism; and reporting classes. She also served as the faculty media adviser at St. John Fisher College (Rochester, NY), and Hawaii Pacific University (Honolulu, HI) for over seven years.

 

Mari is bilingual in Spanish and English and has worked as a Spanish language reporter for Univision Communications – the premier Spanish-language television network.

In the non-profit arena, she has been a grant manager for several non-profits where she handled the writing, administering, and managing post-award compliance reporting.

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