As the youngest of three children growing up in the mailing business, Native Hawaiian business owner Malia Lageman recalls spending her long summer breaks sorting through mail. “My parents would bring home work for us in the summer time,” she says. “We would insert pieces into envelopes and they would give us a penny per envelope that we would do.”
Lageman is no stranger to the mailing business. In 1972, her parents purchased Cardinal Mailing Services from a family friend. After going to college, Lageman entered into a career in the mailing industry herself. However, it wasn’t until 1999 that she had the opportunity to make the Cardinal Mailing Services her own, by purchasing the business from her parents. Since then, Cardinal Mailing Services has gained clientele from a variety of businesses across the state. In 2011, Lageman expanded beyond mailing to presorting by purchasing assets from an outside company and bringing both businesses under one roof.
Lageman credits staff teamwork and dedication as the secrets to forming the successful businesses they have today. “Some of the employees here have been with us since the ‘80s, since I was a kid, and so they are kind of family,” says Lageman. These strong relationships have strengthened the productivity and fostered respect in the workplace. However, it wasn’t always so smooth sailing.
When the recession hit in 2009, Cardinal Mailing & Presort Services faced the tough financial decision to layoff several staff members. However, with selfless attitudes and team-centered mindsets, managers agreed to take pay cuts ensuring that every employee would keep their job and benefits.
“For me the employees are probably the greatest joy. They are also the most difficult part of owning a business,” says Lageman. Her advice to those who are interested in starting up their own business is “Don’t grow too fast,” and to bring on staff as the needs of the business grows. Lageman encourages other entrepreneurs to dream big and instill their values into their businesses.
A Mālama Loan from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has helped Cardinal Mailing & Presort Services by providing a $100,000 loan for purchasing equipment to build the business. More than 2,000 Native Hawaiians have used OHA’s low-interest loans to strengthen businesses, repair homes, and consolidate debt. To learn more about the Mālama Loan or OHA’s other loan programs, visit www.oha.org/loans.