Kaleo Nawahine grew up in a very secure home on the Island of Oahu, the son of an educator and a nurse. He spent his youth surrounded by his extended family enjoying all the regular activities available to Hawaiian children. Education was emphasized in his home so there was never any doubt in his mind that upon graduation from high school he would go to college and eventually find a secure job of his own.
Just as he had scripted, the calculating Nawahine earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and his master’s in engineering management from Brigham Young University in Utah. Fresh out of college, Kaleo landed his first job as a project manager with a manufacturing company in rural Fruitland, Idaho. After two years, he accepted a position as a project manager with a cement and building materials manufacturer and over the next five years, Kaleo had the opportunity to get acquainted with many of his entrepreneurial clients.
“As I interacted with our customers, I began to notice their quality of life and potential for true financial security. It didn’t take long for me to start reevaluating my personal paradigms regarding risk verses reward,’ stated Kaleo. “I don’t come from an entrepreneurial background, but talking with these folks really opened my eyes to the possibilities outside of the corporate structure.”
Once Nawahine made the decision to move forward, it took less than one week for him to identify a business venture. “My opportunity came in the form of a partnership in an industry I knew nothing about, but I was ready for a change,” said Kaleo. “After working day and night for two years to build this business, we sold it and I basically broke even. It was a very exciting time.”
The lessons Kaleo learned in those two years proved to be invaluable as he went forward. First, he knew he wanted to own another business and second, he would probably be more successful if he worked in an industry where he could take advantage of his education and construction experience.
Once again it didn’t take long for Nawahine to unearth another business venture, buying into a small construction company, Performance System, Inc. (PSI) in 2004. Unlike his previous partnership, this opportunity fit his skill set perfectly.
“Having gone through the process before, it was easy to make the determination to move forward with the purchase,” said Kaleo. “And shortly after buying into the partnership, I ended up acquiring the remaining interest.”
Seeking to find a market niche, Nawahine decided to target municipal and industrial projects since they required technical complexities that would limit the number of competitors. Soon, PSI established a reputation as an excellent general contractor with decent bonding capacity.
Within one year, PSI was awarded State of Idaho contracts and began to pursue federal projects in the local market. It was at this point Kaleo, a native Hawaiian, heard about the SBA 8(a) Business Development program. Although PSI was doing well, Kaleo was intrigued by the business development aspect of the program and was also looking for avenues to open new markets.
Late in 2005, Performance Systems was certified and the firm has grown steadily ever since. “The 8(a) program has helped PSI diversify in the federal marketplace, but we still maintain our core competency in municipal projects in the local area,” noted Kaleo.
Remaining true to the business principles he learned from his previous experiences and his innate analytical nature, Nawahine has steadily grown PSI. Now, along with their company headquarters in Fruitland, Idaho, PSI maintains offices in Washington and Hawaii with 78 employees.
“It’s been a great journey so far. Our offices in Idaho and Washington have been our bread and butter, and it’s exciting to have our operations in Hawaii taking off. I love the Idaho lifestyle, and it’s a great place to raise my family. But, I like supporting the economy in my native Hawaii and look forward to expanding PSI’s presence on the Islands,” concluded Nawahine.
With roots in the pacific and experience from the mainland, the future of Performance Systems seems as bright as the tropical sun.
Al Youngwerth’s parents had no idea the impact that a trip with their young son to the theater for a viewing of “On Any Sunday” would someday reshape the off-road motorcycle industry worldwide. The impressionable lad was already smitten with dirt bike riding, but to see it glamorized on the big screen left a significant imprint on his mind.
Al’s passion for motorcycling never wavered as he matured. He settled into a career as a computer engineer for a local company and spent his weekends exploring the spectacular environment surrounding his Boise home. In 2002, Al was riding his dirt bike when his clutch failed causing him to have a less enjoyable experience. Upon his return home, Youngwerth made the commitment to himself that he was going to design a better motorcycle clutch.
While maintaining his day job, Youngwerth began designing a new automatic clutch in his spare time. As he progressed, Youngwerth enlisted the help of Boise State University’s TechHelp and a local machine shop to develop the first prototype of his clutch. Within a very short period of time, Al had refined his prototype at which point he shared his success with a group of on-line motorcycling enthusiasts. The reception was overwhelming and in no time he had orders for 47 of his new “auto clutches” confirming his expectation for the demand for his new product.
At this point, Youngwerth called on his friend and owner of a local machine shop, Pro Moto Billet, to teach him how to operate CNC machines and produce his clutch. His apprenticeship served as the production run to fulfill the first order of clutches.
Inspired by the fond reception his clutch received industry-wide, Youngwerth started Rekluse Motor Sports in late 2002. Fortunately, he had owned several small businesses in the past, thus making this sometimes daunting task very manageable. Immediately, Al hired his brother to assist in the manufacturing process as he quickly assembled the necessary equipment to go into production with his personal resources and conventional financing.
In 2003, as Rekluse began to generate revenue, Youngwerth obtained an SBA 7(a) loan to use as working capital. This was not a particularly difficult task as Al was equipped with all the necessary documentation supporting the loan application.
“We were thrilled to have SBA financing available to help facilitate our growth,” recalled Youngwerth. “We knew the demand was there and we wanted to make our products available worldwide.”
Rekluse has been building on their international sales since the firm’s inception. In addition to their own innovative international marketing approach, Rekluse has taken advantage of SBA’s State Export Promotion Program offered through the Idaho Department of Commerce and the US Commercial Service’s Gold Key Matching Service.
“We are proud to be an American manufacturer, but we certainly plan to continue to seek relationships with motorcycling customers wherever there are riders,’ said Youngwerth. “We have a great team here in Boise and based on our growth, Rekluse will be doing its part to support the economic recovery through increased employment for some time to come.”
Children’s Therapy Place (CTP) was started in 2001 by Sondra McMindes after relocating to Boise from her native state of Florida. Sondra had built a successful children’s speech therapy business in Florida, but family issues required her to move to Idaho. Shortly after arriving in Boise, Sondra started collecting information on the speech therapy market in Idaho. What she identified was an alarming trend in Idaho’s underserved communities – schools were often unable to obtain skilled service providers for students requiring speech, physical and occupational therapy. Believing location shouldn’t prevent children from educational success, Sondra McMindes started Children’s Therapy Place out of her home and began traveling to school districts up to 50 miles away to help kids.
As her niche business grew, McMindes assembled a team of highly skilled therapists who shared her vision and love for children. Her small army of physical, occupational and speech therapists provided home visits for children in the government funded Infant-Toddler program and in underserved communities in rural Idaho.
Within two years, CTP had experienced sufficient growth to justify relocating to a small, leased office location and McMindes was already developing strategies for expansion. As technology opened new opportunities, McMindes began exploring how the internet and telecommunications could improve services for children in underserved areas across the country. In 2008, CTP became one of the first national providers of teletherapy services, delivering online speech/language and occupational therapy services for children from Florida to Washington.
In ten years, CTP has grown from its initial offering of speech/language services in school districts to a full service therapy company with clients nationwide. The firm has experienced an exponential progression of increased revenues with more than 75 therapists and support staff employed at CTP.
CTP’s rapid growth is the result of Sondra McMindes’ qualifications as a highly skilled speech therapist in addition to her ability to assemble a team of business experts in disciplines she lacks. Since 2001, McMindes has been a client of the Idaho Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and continues to rely on their expertise for all facets of business growth. Regularly, McMindes participates in joint mentoring groups with the SCORE counselors to gain depth and perspective in critical business decisions. The SBDC has coordinated student interns to helped CTP with business policies and practices, conducted research on new and developing markets, studied new product lines and developed tactical and financial budgets. This positive relationship has allowed McMindes to focus on the core services CTP offers while developing her business acumen from local SBA resource partners.
Sondra McMindes is committed to the development of the speech therapy profession in support of her passion for children. She has taken on a leadership role in Idaho State University’s Department of Communications Sciences and Disorders. Besides teaching coursework to undergraduate students and providing clinical supervision for graduate students, CTP regularly provides both internships and externships for graduate students. On the state level, McMindes is actively involved in the Idaho Speech, Language and Hearing Association having served on the executive board for the last six years. She is currently the immediate past president of this organization. One of her significant accomplishments was to help secure licensure for speech pathologists in the state of Idaho. On the national level, McMindes has been an active member of the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association her entire career.