Entrepreneur starts Kaimuki shipping shack
NEITHER single fatherhood nor debilitating brain and spinal injuries could have kept William Donohoe from his 11 a.m. appointment Saturday.
It was the blessing of the Shipping Shack Inc., his own package and shipping business at 3569 Harding Ave. in Kaimuki.
He threw the doors open to the general public yesterday. Store hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
The store offers packing, shipping, mail box rentals, faxing, photocopying and money transfer services, as well as retail office and stationery products and Internet service.
A $99 annual membership in its Big Kahuna loyalty program entitles customers to discounts on shipping and mailbox rental as well as the opportunity to market their own businesses in the small-business section of the shop.
The 48-year-old father of four worked for FedEx for 19 years until, in 2002, he started suffering severe headaches and numbness that periodically prevented him from feeling the accelerator or brake under his feet. He would also suffer blackouts. He was a handler of hazardous materials at the time. Not a good mix, said the physicians.
The tumor they found at the base of his brain was just one of a series of medical problems that resulted in several operations and his placement on medical disability.
It occurred to him "there was a good possibility that I would not be able to return to work at FedEx," Donohoe said.
He began to think about starting his own business built on his experience at FedEx.
He sought out the state of Hawaii Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, which connected him with a new program for people qualified to start their own businesses. The program sent Donohoe to Hal Fraser's class at the Hawaii Center for Entrepreneurship, where Fraser became his mentor and business advisor.
Fraser helped Donohoe prepare a business plan, which netted him a $35,000 grant from Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.
Two of Fraser's other students were among four sisters who were developing the Entrepreneurs Center in Kaimuki. They became the landlords from whom Donohoe leases ground-floor space in a brand-new building.
Another state program provided the talent pool from whence the store's three employees were hired.
The Supporting Employment Empowerment, or SEE program, administered by Goodwill Industries of Hawaii, prescreens workers and refers them for interviews. Once a person is hired, the state will reimburse the employer minimum wage plus 14 percent and pay for child care and health insurance for six months, which can be extended in some cases.
"SEE provides employers with the opportunity to expand their business at minimum cost, by offering to the company a diverse pool of job candidates with various talent and skills," said Lillian Koller, Department of Human Services director, when the program was initiated in February.
After six months, the employer is not obligated to hire the SEE participant, said DHS Public Information Officer Derick Dahilig.
"But usually at that point, because (the employer has) ... invested time and effort to train them and make sure that person knows the business and ins-and-outs of the operation, they become so valuable. At that point they hire them," he said. Donohoe hopes to open more locations and may have his future managers working for him right now, he said. "I won't be able to run them all by myself."
Fraser believes, as does Muhammad Yunus who he was quoting, "that within every person is an entrepreneur."
"Sometimes because of our circumstances, we may be like the bonsai tree ... trimmed back and roots tapped and put in a small pot and for that reason it stays small. But if you took a seed from that bonsai tree and planted it in regular earth and it received all the elements it needed, it would grow into a grand and beautiful tree."
Even in cases where a person wasn't raised in an entrepreneurial environment, "it doesn't mean you can't take your seed and plant it and create something larger for yourself," Fraser said.
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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com