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Meet the final 8 HI Plan business finalists

October 31, 2017 - 11:38am

KAILUA-KONA — Let’s get ready to meet the folks swimming with the sharks, shall we?

Hawaii Island’s second annual HIPlan Business Plan competition completed its second round of judging Oct. 21 and from a field of 43, eight finalists were selected for the prize of $25,000 that goes to the winner of the Best Business Plan.

The finals are Nov 4. at Hale Iako at NELHA.

But in preparation for that, we want to look at all the finalists one by one in this column for West Hawaii Today. Starting today, Monday, we’ll feature eight finalists in a series of profiles running all this week.

So, let’s begin with the first two: These first two companies share a focus on nurturing the Big Island’s keiki.

Sunshine Pediatric Clinic in Hilo is run by Dr. Shallon Craddock and her husband, Daniel Craddock; Alaka‘i Academy is a preschool in Kona, operated by Pablo Penaloza. Both businesses began from a very personal place, their owners’ desire to craft a purposeful lifestyle for themselves.

“I was looking for a work-life balance,” Shallon Craddock said. “My husband had managed medical practices, and I wanted a career where I actually could spend time with my family, so we decided why not make it a family thing? We both have master’s degrees in public health, we both have a preventative mindset, wanting to focus on health prevention rather than disease, and we both want to give children the best opportunities they can have and make an impact on the future.”

Pablo Penaloza’s career path was not as linear as Craddock’s.

“I started my career as an investment banker,” Penaloza said. “We moved to Hawaii in part to make a career change, and my wife and I felt that rather than just getting jobs, we should start a business and do something that provided jobs for others in the community.”

The couple with young children soon realized how important schools were.

“We’ll be here a long time,” he said. “This is where we need to make a difference. We started with a preschool, as that type of facility has the least barriers to entry in the education field.”

We all know that living here in the middle of the ocean comes at a price in the way of barriers that might not be present on the mainland.

Our finalists chimed in about the barriers to optimal outcomes they saw in their respective fields and how they are working to overcome those.

“Physician shortages are the biggest barriers to children’s health care on the Big Island,” Craddock said. “In my specialty, there are just not enough pediatricians, and on top of that some practices will only accept newborns, some don’t take all insurances or won’t enroll unvaccinated children as patients, and a number of physicians are getting on towards retirement age.”

So how would she like to grow?

“As our practice grows we would like to recruit an additional pediatrician from the mainland with the help of grants we have identified that provide salary assistance for first years of practice,” he said.

“Great teachers,” is how Mr. Penaloza quickly answered that question for Alakai Academy.

“It is difficult to attract and retain qualified teachers and that is the reason the industry here hasn’t grown much in over 40 years. There is a huge shortage statewide and many schools have resorted to qualification waivers on applicant experience or education in hiring teachers for their facilities.”

In addition to the prestige of winning HIPlan, the winner gets $25,000 in prize money. So how will that impact these finalists should they win?

“We would use the money to buy the equipment we need to supplement our services,” Craddock said. “Patients present at Sunshine Pediatric when the ER might be more appropriate, so I need oxygen equipment and a defibrillator. Just recently a baby stopped breathing during a visit. We were able to get her breathing started, called emergency services, and the baby did well, but that emphasized the need for an improved ER kit.”

For Alakai Academy, “in spite of all we have accomplished, our full vision has not been rolled out yet to the public,” Penaloza said. “We have been limited by our infrastructure. The prize money will help us start on the requirements for developing the new expanded facility we are planning, with things like traffic and other required surveys. It’s difficult to develop business infrastructure in Kona and the funding will help us to get over that hurdle.”

Finally, we asked these finalists to reflect on their participation in the HIPlan Competition.

“It’s been wonderful,” Craddock said. “It took me out of my comfort zone and I felt it helped me grow as a physician.”

“Whenever you get an opportunity as a company to focus on your business, who you are, what you do, how to articulate that, it’s empowering and ensures you are moving in the right direction,” added her husband and business partner, Daniel Craddock.

Penaloza echoed those sentiments.

“Wonderful,” he said. “Especially the 15-minute presentation where I had to focus on the key elements of my business. I had to have a laser focus because there was no time to waste, and as simple as a 15-minute presentation sounds, it was challenging. I also loved watching all the other pitches; there was a lot of variety.”

Experience the final phase of the HIPlan competition and find out who wins Saturday at NELHA from 9 a.m.-noon.

Dennis Boyd is the West Hawaii Small Business Development Center director.

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