The Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce celebrated its 42nd year as an organization with its 2018 ‘Ō‘ō Awards event on April 27 in the Coral Ballroom of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. This year’s theme was “Celebrating Boat Days,” selected to convey the resiliency of Native Hawaiians in the face of tremendous societal and commercial change. With the arrival of steamships and tourists, Native Hawaiian entrepreneurs rose to challenges of a new commercial era, absorbing new technologies and seeking opportunities as visitors flooded onto our shores. Hawaiians held fast to cultural values of aloha and ho‘okipa (to entertain), and caring for their families. Out of this time, an entrepreneurial spirit was born. Average Hawaiians work hard, using their skills and talents not merely to survive, but to flourish in the modern world.

At its annual gala, the Native Hawaiian Chamber honored three Native Hawaiian business professionals who have made significant contributions to Hawai‘i’s communities. The NH Chamber presented an 2018 ‘ō‘ō Award to Heather Giugni, a Hawaiian filmmaker and advocate, who celebrates her community through the lens of a camera. Most recently, Heather embarked a new enterprise, becoming the Culture Collections Specialist of ‘Ulu‘ulu – Hawai‘i’s official state archive for film and videotape related to Hawai‘i’s history and culture. Heather guided Juniroa Productions and co-created Rock Salt Media, which produced the Emmy-Award winning series “Family Ingredients,” the only locally-produced television series to achieve national distribution on PBS. Heather is a proud graduate of the Kamehameha Schools and the daughter of the late Henry K. Giugni, a longtime aide to U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawai‘i). Heather has always seen the power of a message within the frames of her Pacific Islands.

Marleen Akau, general manager of the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, received a 2018 ‘ō‘ō Award in recognition of her management and leadership skills. The Center is Kamehameha Schools’ most important real estate asset in terms of value, revenue and cultural history. The Center’s profitability is crucial to Kamehameha Schools’ mission of educating children of Hawaiian ancestry. Through her leadership, the Royal Hawaiian Center has been revitalized to reflect changing demographics in the tourist market while maintaining its tribute to Hawaiian culture and values. Marleen ensures that tenants and employees receive in-service training to understand the importance of the Waikīkī property, Helumoa, and Hawaiian values including ho‘okipa and aloha.

Hawaiian businessman Jan Dill received a 2018 ‘ō‘ō Award in recognition of his business innovations. Jan has served as president of Strategic Solutions, Inc., since 1997. Jan also founded the Partners in Development Foundation (PID) in 1997 and has served as president and chairman of its Board since 2001. PID provides culturally-based approaches to build healthy and resilient families and communities, drawing upon ancient Hawaiian cultural traditions to meet challenges facing today’s Hawaiian population. Concepts including the ahupua‘a system of land and environmental stewardship and ho‘ona‘auao, mentorship in education, address needs of at-risk groups, such as preschool children and their caregivers, within economically depressed neighborhoods and the Hawaiian community. Dill serves on several community boards, including Na Pua a Ke Ali‘i Pauahi, Child Evangelism Fellowship of Hawai‘i and the Volunteer Corps for O‘ahu Community Correctional Center.

Each year, the Native Hawaiian Chamber celebrates the accomplishments and service of Native Hawaiians who make positive differences in Hawai‘i’s businesses and communities. Annually, honorees are awarded an ‘Ō‘ō that is emblematic of the arduous, daily physical and planning efforts performed to sustain family and community life. In early Hawai‘i, the ‘ō‘ō was used daily in planting and tending taro, sweet potatoes and other food sustaining plants. The Chamber’s annual event also provides an opportunity to promote fundraising for educational scholarships for Native Hawaiian students pursuing an advanced education degree in business or a profession. The NHCC has long supported Hawaiian scholars seeking higher education as a means to better serve their families and the community.