The ʻŌʻō Awards: A Vision 50 Years in the Making


First, our aloha, pule and kōkua continue to go out in support of our ʻohana and friends affected by the destruction left by recent wildfires here in Hawaiʻi.

Founded in 1974, the purpose of The Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce (NHCC) was to create a foundation of influence for Native Hawaiian businessowners and professionals among their non-Hawaiian peers.

Ed Auld, a founding member of the NHCC, observed that, in those days, Hawaiian businessmen considered themselves businessmen that happened to be Hawaiian, and not Hawaiian businessmen.

Judge Melvin Soong, another founding member, noted that this was happening right after the Korean and Vietnam conflicts and just prior to, what we know today as, the Hawaiian Renaissance.

Sentiment for increasing Hawaiian cultural identity and a return to ʻike Hawaiʻi-centered living surged across the pae ʻāina. The time to gather and create a new reality for Hawaiian businessowners and professionals was ripe, and they took it! Along with Charles Scott Hoʻoulu May, these charter members of NHCC set in motion a plan to build a new foundation for Hawaiians in business.

Almost 50 years later, NHCC has seen thousands of Hawaiian businessowners, entrepreneurs and professionals thrive and continue the tradition of giving back to and helping to grow the vibrant Kānaka business community that exists today.

Our continuing mission is to mālama Kānaka in business and commerce. In addition to convening leadership, building relationships, and connecting Kānaka to resources and opportunities, we call out and recognize those who stand out in alignment with this mission.

These are Kānaka who have gone above and beyond across sectors to build Kānaka influence in business circles and throughout Hawaiʻi and the world. NHCC’s ʻŌʻō Award is recognition, not only of individuals that have contributed to our mission, but of the vision, dedication, and aloha that the founding members of NHCC had for our people, our community and our Hawaiʻi.

Photo: Marlene Sai
Marlene Sai was one of three ʻŌʻō Award recipients in 2022. – Courtesy Photo

To date, 91 individuals have been honored with an ʻŌʻō Award, with three more to be honored this year, all of whom have made tremendous contributions to our lāhui. In Hawaiʻi, it really isn’t our way to point out our own accomplishments, and we are often reluctant to accept praise for what we see as kuleana – a testament to the teachings of our kūpuna.

The ʻŌʻō Award, however, is a way for the NHCC to ʻauamo our kuleana of recognizing leaders who advocate for Hawaiians in business. The Native Hawaiian leaders recognized, both past and present, certainly embody that vision and the spirit of our founders, to set a strong foundation of influence in the broader business community in Hawaiʻi to see Hawaiians thrive!

The 46th Annual ʻŌʻō Awards Gala will be on Oct. 13, 2023, at the Tapa Ballroom at the Hilton Hawaiian Village from 5:00-9:00 p.m. For more information: