So You’re Thinking About Starting A Business?

John Latkiewicz

If so, you need to see this man. As director of the Hawaii Small Business Development Center on the Garden Isle, John Latkiewicz and his staff can make starting a business easier, and existing businesses more efficient. Coco ZIckos photo

If so, this is the man you need to see. As the director of Hawai‘i Small Business Development Center on Kaua‘i, he and his staff have tips and tools to make starting a business easier, and existing businesses more efficient

John Latkiewicz wants small businesses to succeed. In an effort to do so, the director of Hawai’i Small Business Development Center on Kaua’i offers free advice to entrepreneurs seeking favorable outcomes in their financial endeavors.

“It can be everything from how to put together a job description to regulations for horsedrawn carriages,” he says regarding information he can share with business owners.

The SBDC is a beneficial resource too few people know about, says Darlene Kaui, the organization’s administrative assistant/office manager.

Hawai'i Small Business Development Center John Latkiewicz

John Latkiewicz stands outside the building at KCC where his office is located

“I’m glad it’s here,” she says of the center, which is located at Kaua’i Community College in Puhi. “A lot of business owners are coming to us and saying they’ve never heard of us before. At least there’s a resource for people opening up a business instead of doing it all by themselves or figuring it out on their own.”

Seasoned business owners also can utilize the services.

“If anything, we like to work with existing businesses as much as the small businesses,” says Latkiewicz. “Truly in terms of having economic impact in the community, a lot of times it’s with the existing businesses that we can really achieve some of the biggest economic impacts.”

Operations can have hundreds of employees and earn sizable sums of money, yet still be considered small businesses. Even so, more than 80 percent of businesses in Hawaii have four or fewer employees.

Funded by state and federal dollars, the SBDC is located on each of the main Hawaiian islands, and a big part of what its employees do is assist people in developing a business plan.

Latkiewicz and Darlene Kaui

Latkiewicz and office manager Darlene Kaui at KCC

“Writing on paper can really put your dreams into perspective, and guides you to achieve it,” says Work It Out owner Jeni Kaohelauli’i, who took a business plan class, Nxlevel, offered by the SBDC before opening her business in 2008. “Not only was the business plan a valuable component, but I was able to network with bankers, lawyers and other business owners to get valuable advice from them. Nxlevel helped me make my business dreams a reality.”

Business plans serve as the foundation that holds an operation together.

“They have to know their business, they have to know their numbers,” says Kaui about an entrepreneur’s need to develop a professional plan. “You can’t just go into business with nothing.

John Latkiewicz

Latkiewicz points out on the Kauai Community College map where his office is located on campus

You have to know your numbers to know if you’re profitable and if the business is suitable to do.”

Monthly workshops, hosted by Latkiewicz and currently held at KCC, offer advice about business plans, the paperwork process involved in starting a new business and what it takes to succeed.

“The biggest challenge of starting a business is getting the capital,” says Latkiewicz, adding that in order to receive financial backing, a business plan is a must. It’s not easy to start a business enterprise.

“If a business is going to require an infusion of cash, it’s difficult. It frankly just is,” he says. “A lot of the lenders are more interested in working with their existing clients. That’s not to say they aren’t lending, but the challenges for a startup are greater than somebody with a proven track record.”

John Latkiewicz

John at KCC

The tightening of finances has encouraged many entrepreneurs to “bootstrap” their operations, he says.

Take for example, the KCC Farmers Market.

“Look at the entrepreneurs that are there an awful lot of them started their operation with a few personal resources and built from there,” he says.

Latkiewicz has always enjoyed watching and helping people succeed. Originally from Ohio, after graduating from Bowling Green State University with a bachelor’s in psychology and philosophy and a master’s in communication,

Latkiewicz attended the University of Utah and earned a Ph.D. in interpersonal and organizational communication.

“I always have had a real interest in human behavior,” he says.

John and wife Helen Cox

John and wife Helen Cox enjoy hiking

He went on to assist others succeed by working in various positions at Salt Lake Community College. Among his accomplishments was creating an English-as-a-second-language program and developing a program for Southeast Asian refugees who were integrating into the American work force. The Kalaheo resident also put together curriculum materials for a gold mine operation in Papua New Guinea, that would teach non-English speakers how to do their jobs and communicate with their employers more effectively.

Though he eventually found himself serving as dean of the School of Applied Technology at Salt Lake Community College, Latkiewicz says he actually comes from a blue-collar background.

“I worked in steel mills and shipyards as I was working my way through school,” he says. “Believe me, I was not the IT person.”

His first job, in fact, consisted of activities like digging gardens and putting up fences. He explains that he was hard up for money and that the economy was sour at the time, so he sought work by placing an ad in the paper saying he would do anything.

John, Helen

John, Helen and their two dogs

“It was truly an entrepreneurial experience,” he says. “In some respects, I look back at that and I really do appreciate that. It really told me that, if you’re going to succeed, it’s up to you to go out there and make it happen.”

He maintains that same motivation in his current position.

“He’s the type that he’ll go out of his way to help a client,” says Kaui. He is intelligent, very humble and a great boss, she adds.

“I’d love to think that when I came here I came here open-minded,” says Latkiewicz. “Relationships are important on Kaua’i. I could have said those words the day I landed here, but I understand that a whole lot more than I ever did on day one. And I look forward to deepening my understanding of what that means here.”

Latkiewicz moved to the island in 2009, a year after his wife, KCC chancellor Helen Cox, started her current position.

“She’s my cultural and anthropological informant,” he says about Cox, a Punahou grad whom he met in Utah.

John Latkiewicz

John in his office

The two like to garden and landscape together, as well as hike. They also have two dogs and two cats.

“All rescued one way or the other,” says Latkiewicz who has three grown children from a previous marriage.

“Every business that walks in has its uniqueness,” he says regarding what he enjoys most about his job. “That’s one of the really exciting things about this: I never know who’s going to walk in the door.”

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