Friday, December 9, 2016

Discover Guam through Local Ambassadors

By: Jane Ray
Business Advisor

Martha Hara was born in National City, California and had lived abroad-wherever her father was stationed-throughout her childhood. She moved to Guam, her father’s birthplace, in 2007 to start a new journey. Through those travels and experiences with different cultures and communities, it gave her a more profound appreciation for what she is doing today.   

Hara has been the Managing Director for LIMA Corporation dba Discover Guam since October 2009. In her tenure, she managed the airport and tour operations, managed contracts for various clients, and oversaw the general management of operations. Hara has over 35 years of business operations and project management experience, over 15 years in sales, advertising, marketing, media and public relations, and eight years in the Tourism and Hospitality industry. So when the founder decided to sell the company, it only made sense to Hara to purchase the business but she just did not know how. She has always worked hard for other people, but this was her first opportunity to own a business and grow with it. 

Hara had several business associates that she approached regarding investment, but each asked if she had a business plan and financial projections. As she had never been in this position before, Hara sought assistance from the Guam Small Business Development Center (Guam SBDC). Hara met with business advisor, Jane Ray, who guided Hara with preparing the business plan and financials required to submit for an SBA commercial loan. Her biggest challenge was that she did not own any assets or have a strong credit background since her move back to Guam. Since she could not qualify for an SBA loan, Hara had to go through applying for commercial loan with a business partner who could offer his assets as collateral. 

Hara looks forward to expanding Discover Guam’s tour markets in the short term. As for Hara’s long term goal for Discover Guam, she plans to involve her children in the business so they can continue to represent Discover Guam with the Hafa Adai spirit. Hara stated, “Being Guamanian, Japanese ethnicity I enjoy the environment of both Chamorro and Japanese cultures here on Guam. As a certified tour guide, I take pride in sharing our island’s history, culture, and beauty with our visitors.” 

Discover Guam is 27 years old, debt free, and has earned an award winning reputation in the tourism industry. They offer an Airport Ambassador Program and are available for private and custom tours. For more information, visit or contact their office at 671-649-TOUR (8687). 

To inquire on the SBDC services, contact their main office at 671-735-2590 or visit   

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Kottura Innovations: Pushing Creativity to New Heights

An Interview with Owners Angel and Ken Paulino

Please tell us about yourself and your family.

Ken and I were born and raised on Guam. Ken was an Army brat so he left the island at a young age. Straight out of high school as an Academy of Our Lady of Guam graduate, I went to college in New York city at Pace University then later transferred to Cal State University Monterey Bay, to study communications and pre-law. Shortly after I met Ken in college, we got married and in 2010 we returned home to raise our three sons Noah, Kyle and our newest member to the family, our son Inapu.

Why did you decide to start your own business?

At first, we just wanted to create our own stories as a spin-off of CHamoru legends to be able to expand the storytelling experience with our kids. Our boys have such big imaginations, and seeing the way they interact with games, pop-up books, and traditional books was what inspired us to meld our skills together. By using the traditional and creative mechanics of storytelling combined with tech tools, gamification, and multimedia elements, we’re able to create a holistic experience. We wanted to create something for everyone to enjoy based on different types of learning styles. Some of us are visual learners, auditory learners, hands-on, and imaginative thinkers. Kottura was created as a means for us to push the boundaries of creativity to use the technology available to us in practical ways to help us enhance our imaginative experiences. 

From casual mobile games, to augmented reality, and interactive e-books, we want people to be able to access these tools instantly and anywhere in the world. We saw this as an opportunity to connect with families and give them the option to be able to take a little piece of home with them to share wherever they go. One of our main goals is to also eventually get these materials into our schools to offer teachers additional options to keep students engaged.

What experience do you have in this type of business?

My background is in creative storytelling, story/character development, graphic design, creative strategy and marketing. Ken’s background is in programming, mobile/web development, motion graphics, 3D modeling, digital strategy and theater. So it’s a natural fit for the two of us to come together to develop a product that compliments both of our strengths. In college, Ken and I worked in the media team for the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security Program where we developed multi-media learning modules for instructors to use for students studying abroad. My background in communications afforded me to take many creative storytelling classes and we both had our own radio shows for the OtterBay radio.

In 2014, we ran a successful crowdfunding campaign for the development of “Outsmarting Manet: How the Maidens Saved Guam.” This was a test for us to bring our idea to the community to gather feedback and was the determining factor if our model could be sustainable. We’ve experienced some bumps along the way finding suppliers and printers, but with the help and support of our family, friends, mentors, and those we’ve met along the way, we’re slowly getting the hang of things.

In the past five years, Ken and I have spent countless hours taking online courses and tutorials, listening to podcasts, networking with experienced professionals, and really taking the time to educate ourselves and staying up to date with the latest tech tools and trends. We do a lot of research on new products and programs to help us generate ideas to improve our products and create an immersive user experience. The dynamic between the two of us is synergistic. When we’re on, we’re on. We take time to listen to each other, think things through, and prototype which allows us to build upon each other’s ideas. It is the secret sauce to many of our projects and how we’ve made it this far. I’d like to think we bring the best out of one another. So when people get one of us, they really get both of us.

What was the start-up process like? How did you fund your business?

We’re still in start-up phase. We knew before launching our product line, we had to create at least 3-4 projects worth of content to continue to release products in a timely manner. Our goal is to build a brand that is fun and engaging. To keep up with demand and constantly stay fresh in our customers minds, we need to be prepared to release products consistently. Right now we’ve reached a point where we have an ideal amount of content in our pipeline to be able to push new products. By giving ourselves a head start with content, we have some flexibility to create new products and it enables us to continue to work on new projects under no pressure.

Ken and I have funded the business through a variety of ways: self-funding, crowdfunding, project grants, and reinvestment of the revenue from the services side of the business into our products. We received grant funding from CAHA for the development of one of our projects, “Hayi Mas Metgot: The Tale of Malaguana & Gadao” which debuted during FestPac. Just recently we received a grant from the GUMA program which now provides the company with much needed inventory, equipment and software, and copyright/trademark registration work.

Through the help of Denise Mendiola from the SBDC, we were able to identify our core areas for capital, growth and expansion. Rather than try to fund the business in its entirety, Denise helped us to develop a phased-approach to build up the company as we go. Denise provided sound advice for us as a business mentor and friend, keeping us focused on making the business sustainable and maintaining a healthy balance of business and family life. Denise is a great mentor for us and she continues to nurture us in so many ways whether through new business development opportunities, and community partnerships. She keeps us on our toes and we appreciate her commitment to seeing us through success.

In this industry, people want to buy products that are well developed from a trusted source. Ken and I are working closely with community partners like the University of Guam to create innovative programs for the community so everyone can be able to get some hands on training with game development, game design and story development. The tech industry continues to move its way toward mobile with high-emphasis on user experience.

     What were some of the biggest challenges/experienced you experienced in the start-up process?

The technology we use in our model was before it’s time here on Guam. Augmented reality has been around for years.  Before it became a trend, big companies like Pepsi had used it in some of their marketing campaigns. It was quite an uphill battle for us explaining the technology and how it worked without having something similar to compare it to. Now, almost 3 years later from when we first introduced it, Pokemon Go! comes along and now everyone understands it’s application and how it works. Sometimes it takes a large company to make something hip/popular for other people to understand it. We had to get really creative with how we explained how the products worked. Once viewers got the idea when they tried it out for themselves, they were amazed.
Also, some people could not see the integration of technology into the product at first. Some thought we would have high pricing strategies because of the technology we fused into the products. As part of our strategy to keep our costs at a manageable level, we do all of the creative services from app design to development, to motion graphics and animation, in-house.

What is your most memorable triumph in your start-up process?

This continues to change for us as we grow and get momentum for the company. Today, our biggest triumph is getting fully funded with the GUMA grant. We worked very hard to be able to make all the classes, not miss any deadlines, all the while being pregnant in my third trimester and making every soccer game for our boys. Ken can tell you that even an hour before delivery of our son, I was hacking away making sure our business plan was sound, our numbers were on point, and that our model was something that people could easily understand and envision. Within two weeks of giving birth, we were back in GUMA class again, newborn in tow and all.

What are your short-term and long-term plans for your business?

For the short-term, we are currently working with GUMA to get our products in at the Guam Museum gift shop. If everything works out, we also want to be able to have an interactive exhibit for kids in the Guam Museum. As we continue to build and create more content, we are also looking to build out our creative team and open our own retail location hopefully in the next 3-4 years. This place will be a great destination hub for families to be able to try out our products, experience interactive story hour with their kids, and see firsthand the creative process that goes into these cool projects.

What advice would you give to others who want to start a business at this time?

Building a company does not happen overnight. It’s not a roll of chance or luck that yields great success. It’s a matter of making time to put in the work. Thankfully, here at home we have access to amazing resources such as business training, grant opportunities, and access to a powerful network of intelligent and experienced experts who are always willing to lend an ear. This is why there’s no other place we’d rather be to start a business. Our community brings a unique level of care, support, camaraderie, and the willingness to provide any help to all local businesses. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Kitchen Lingo: Inspired by Guam’s Land and Sea

By: Nicole Tesiro
Network Program Associate
(Pacific Islands SBDC Network)

The exterior of Kitchen Lingo during dinner. 
  (Photo taken from
Chef Lingo Quichocho was raised in the village of Santa Rita. He grew up learning to cook from family and friends in the back kitchens of Southern Guam.  After high school, Lingo received his certification in Culinary Arts from National Culinary and Baking School in San Diego, California. He relocated back to Guam in 2013 after working in kitchens from Massachusetts to San Diego anxious to share his passion with the people of Guam.

With the assistance of the Guam SBDC, Denise Mendiola – Senior Business Advisor and Women in Business Program Coordinator guided Chef Lingo through the start-up process. He stated that the SBDC helped layout the groundwork for his business. Denise was very knowledgeable, resourceful, and generous with information that allowed Kitchen Lingo to be competitive in the restaurant industry. 

Kitchen Lingo is owned and operated by Chef Lingo Quichocho along with Lenny and Pika Fejeran, owners of Pika’s Café. They opened Kitchen Lingo on May 1, 2015 in the heart of Downtown Hagatna. Their mission is “To practice uncompromising commitment to quality, sourcing the best local ingredients possible, serving innovative, chef-driven and value-focused craft food and drinks in a chic, intimate atmosphere driven by our island hospitality.”

Chef Lingo finishes off plating during lunch hour. 
(Photo taken from
The menu at Kitchen Lingo takes the freshest ingredients from local vendors (Grow Guam Fresh, Farm-To-Table, and Fisherman’s Co-Op) and transforms them into unique, delicious dishes. For lunch you can find dishes such as the local fish with herb salsa, long beans, bok choy and edamame salad or the pulled duck sandwich with hoisin, cilantro pesto, and cucumber and papaya slaw. For dinner, they offer a salmon entrée with zucchini, kale, fennel, crab couscous, and soffrito. But their latest offering is the chef’s tasting. This is great if this is your first dining experience at Kitchen Lingo. Chef Lingo curates a six course prix-fixe meal giving you an opportunity to try multiple items on the menu. It is offered Monday through Wednesday for dinner only.

Kitchen Lingo is located on 153 Martyr Street Suite 101-A in the heart of Downtown Hagatna. They are open frpm Monday through Friday for lunch from 11:00am – 2:00pm and dinner from 6:00pm – 9:00pm. On Saturday, they are only open for dinner from 6:00pm – 9:00pm. For reservations, visit their website or call 671-472-5550. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Seminar on SBA Loans Draws Many Community Members

By: Orrin Pharmin
Service Director/Business Advisor

The recent business seminar entitled, “Funding Your Business through a SBA Loan” drew a number of participants who were looking for ways to start, expand, or grow their business.

The seminar was hosted by the Department of Commerce’s CNMI Small Business Development Center (SBDC) through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Guam Branch. The seminar was also held in partnership with the Northern Marianas College (NMC) with the support of the Commonwealth Development Authority (CDA), CNMI Department of Commerce, and the Let's MOVE! Marianas Alliance.

SBA Guam Branch Manger, Kenneth Lujan, is seen
 in the photo above conducting the SBA
workshop at the Northern Marianas College. 
“We were pleased with the turn out of the seminar and are glad that more and more people are taking advantage of these educational seminars that are free to the public,” said Orrin Pharmin, CNMI SBDC Director. “We will continue to work with our partners like NMC and CDA to increase the number of offerings we have for our small businesses.”

The presenter of the seminar, Kenneth Lujan, Guam SBA Branch Manager, talked about starting up or expanding businesses recovering from disasters, loan programs, and other programs to help businesses. “With CNMI’s emerging economy, there would be a need for alternative avenues of obtaining capital.  SBA’s loan programs would be a viable source that would help start-up and expanding businesses meet their financial needs.  Understanding where to find the funds and how each program works would be beneficial to the small business concern,” said Lujan.

For more information on the CNMI SBDC, please contact their office at 670-664-4081 or visit

Friday, September 16, 2016

An Interview with Sakura Car Rental Owner Evelyn Palik

Interviewed by: Julian Abraham
Business Advisor
(Kosrae SBDC)

Julian Abraham, Kosrae SBDC Business Advisor, sat down with Evelyn Palik, owner of Sakura Car Rental to discuss the start-up process of opening up her business.

Please tell us about yourself and your family. I am Evelyn Billy Palik, 44 years of age, a proud resident of Lelu. I have 6 kids, and 1 grandchild.

display of cars for rent
Why did you decide to start your own business? I am currently operating a small retail store and wanted to extend the line of business into other areas, such as SUV rental service.
What experience do you have in this type of business? I do not have too much experience, but being exposed to “retailing” with my father during the good years in business, I am confident that I could do well.

How did the Small Business Development Center and other resources help you? The Kosrae SBDC assisted me by guiding me through the paperwork and business proposal process. In addition, they positively pushed me to reach my goals.
How did you fund your business? Most of the funding came from Pacific Islands Development Bank (PIDB) with a minimal amount being put up by us.
What were some of the biggest challenges/experienced you experienced in the start-up process? Seeking financial assistance and compiling a workable business plan were the challenges I faced in the start-up process.
What is your most memorable triumph in your start-up process? My most memorable triumph would be the approved financial assistance.
What are your short-term and long-term plans for your business? Short term plan: link up with partners and advertise. Long term plan: the business to be able to sustain itself by the end of the financial assistance period.
What advice would you give to others who want to start a business at this time? Starting a business could be challenging but help is just a phone call away, call the SBDC staff.

For more information on how the Kosrae SBDC can assist you, contact the main office at 691-370-2751 or visit our website at

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Creative Indeed Open in Hagatna

Michelle Pier is an artist and entrepreneur, born and raised on Guam and inspired by the simple beauty and complex history of her island home. She has Chamorro blood running through her veins, though her family is of a mixed background. Michelle resonates with the strong women in her family. One of those women was Agueda Johnston, her great-grandmother, who was known for her roles in building up education on Guam before and after WWII, as well as her efforts during WWII. She was beaten for being suspected by the Japanese of helping to hide the last American radioman to keep contact with the U.S. Her husband died in a concentration camp in Japan and she was left to raise their seven children on her own. Michelle admires her great-grandmother's endurance and strength, and made her own commitment to herself to live a full life of joy and purpose.

Michelle taught herself to draw and create things at a very young age and has always had a strong creative spark. She paints with thick flowing textures, layers of metallic and colorful scenery, sometimes abstract and always full of energy. She has taken some art classes at the University of Guam, as well as the City College of San Francisco, but mostly she loves to learn by experimenting. Michelle started painting consistently after she became a single mother of two and needed to create as a way to turn around a dark time in her life. She started a business in 2009 creating and selling art, and holding classes as well as large community events. She has since exhibited and sold hundreds of original acrylic paintings and prints locally and abroad. She has contributed art toward many local events and organizations. In 2015, the SBA awarded her the Home-based Business Champion of the year. She encourages people to follow their passions and live life to its full potential. Michelle hopes to continue sharing Guam's unique story with the world through art.

When asked how the Guam SBDC and other resources helped her in starting her business, Michelle stated, “When I was first getting started in my business, I was overwhelmed with the process and couldn't see a clear path ahead. Someone referred me to the free services offered by the Small Business Development Center, and I was immediately relieved that it even existed. At that stage in my business, I had no capital, and was in no financial position to be investing in business mentorship. I was assigned to Denise Mendiola, and met with her periodically to strategize what steps to take next in my business. She helped me to create a business plan step by step, and made the daunting task seem doable. She helped me to consider all options and resources available to me, whether I wanted to apply for a loan or seek other funding sources. She guided me through the process of applying for a space at the Chamorro Village, even though I ultimately shifted toward securing a physical space elsewhere. I really appreciated that Denise was a businesswoman herself and could relate to my experience. She helped me navigate my goals and create actionable steps throughout various stages in my business over the years. I absolutely love and appreciate that the service is ongoing and free of charge, as it brings relief and reassurance to know that I have the support of the SBDC if I come up against certain challenges. I recommend to anyone who is thinking of starting a business, or looking at expanding an existing business, to utilize the valuable services offered by the SBDC to navigate the steps of the process. They have been an instrumental part of my business's success over the years, and for that I am truly grateful.”

For more information on how the Guam SBDC can assist you, visit

Friday, June 10, 2016

Green Flash Comics Now Located in Joeten Superstore Building

Interviewed by: Orrin Pharmin
SBDC Director/Business Advisor

Please tell us about yourself and your family I arrived on Saipan in 2002 to teach math at the Northern Mariana College (NMC).  I left NMC in 2009 and taught math at Marianas High School for two years.  I also taught computer course and math at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi in 2011-2012. I then returned to Saipan in 2012.  My wife's name is Susan, who works for IT&E as a purchaser and we have two children: James (11) and Sarah (9).

Why did you decide to start your own business?  While in Abu Dhabi, I attended the very first annual “Comic-Con.” Although there is a high demand for comic book merchandise as well as a high level of brand and character recognition, I discovered that there were no comic book merchandise stores in the entire country of the United Arab Emirates. The one condition for starting a store there is that I would need to already have a business elsewhere, so I decided to start one on Saipan since there were no other full comic merchandise stores on the island.

How did the Small Business Development Center and other resources help you?  They got me started in the right direction by helping me with the logistics of starting a business on the island.

What was the start-up process like? How did you fund your business?  I funded the business completely through personal savings I did not take out a loan or need to borrow money.  The start-up process took more than a year.  It's a lot of work and planning plus finding a suitable location.  This all took a bit of time.

What were some of the biggest challenges/experienced you experienced in the start-up process?  There were plenty of challenges, including finding a reasonably proper location, setting up how to make and receive orders, finding out what was in demand and what was not, establishing a clientele.

What is your most memorable triumph in your start-up process?  Just opening the doors for the first day of business knowing the store was absolutely ready to begin business.

What are your short-term and long-term plans for your business?  Short term: Moving to a better location (which has been accomplished).  Long term: Opening a store in the U.A.E.

What advice would you give to others who want to start a business at this time?  With the price of oil dropping as much as it has in the past year or so, plus the noticeable increase in construction on-island, it might be a good time to consider starting a business.

For more information on starting a new business or expanding your existing business, contact the CNMI SBDC at 670-664-3018.