"Voice of Hawaii small businesses" closes - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

"Voice of Hawaii small businesses" closes

Senator Sam Slom Senator Sam Slom

After advocating for Hawaii's entrepreneurs for nearly 40 years, a small business organization quietly closes up.

Smart Business Hawaii, formerly known as Small Business Hawaii, used to advocate for 3,500 business members statewide in the 1990's.

Since then, that number has plunged to less than 1,000 members statewide.

After longtime leader Senator Sam Slom retired, the board of directors decided to shut down the organization this month.

“The networking and educational roles SBH played have been taken up by many other organizations that did not exist when SBH was founded. The new director and Board could not identify any major competitive advantages for SBH that would have allowed it to successfully serve its members,” said board member Panos Prevedouros.

Win Schoneman is the franchise owner for Bubbies Ice Cream in Hawaii Kai. He says this will affect him in the long run.

"Small business is the backbone of business. But when you talk to the average person on the street, they don't get that," Schoneman said.

"All of the laws that affect small business, affect everybody in Hawaii," he said.

Tire salesman Lex Brodie founded the organization which is now known as Smart Business Hawaii back in 1975. In 1983, Senator Slom took it over. Slom retired as president and CEO a couple of months ago but still served on the board. He was the only one of 11 board members who voted against the shut down two weeks ago.

"I guess I'm an old war horse. I thought there was still some life, still some things that we could do," said Slom.

Slom says they have more competition now and there aren't as much small businesses as there used to be.

"It's tough, it's tough running a small business and the children of small business owners don't want to get involved because they see how hard their mom and dad work," Slom said.

Schoneman knows how hard it is firsthand.

"Most business owners that I know of run 60 to 80 hours a week in terms of just normal operations," said Schoneman.

He says Smart Business Hawaii's closure didn't come as a surprise.

"When I look at the number of small businesses that have quit, shut down, gone bankrupt or whatever, I knew it would be difficult for them to make a go of it," Schoneman said.

Slom says 95-percent of businesses in Hawaii are considered a small businesses. And despite the shakeup, he says he'll continue to be a voice for them.

“It's not gonna change the small business landscape. It's not going to change me. I'm still going to be the champion for small businesses and the number one advocate," he said.

"Senator Slom has been running that organization for a number of years and to be honest with you, I think maybe we'll have a better chance with having an independent voice because he is a member of the legislature," said Schoneman.

Prevedouros says Smart Business Hawaii's closure didn't leave behind any debts. He says the board was sitting on a few thousand dollars of renewals for 2015 which were returned.

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