HAWAII AT WORK
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Marietta Siangco has been working for Oils of Aloha since its founding 20 years ago, and was with its predecessor company for 13 years before that. Above, Siangco last week held a bottle of one of the company's kukui nut oil products.
Oils of Aloha employee is a team player
Marietta Siangco walks the talk when it comes to the products she helps produce for Oils of Aloha
, based in Waialua.
Who: Marietta Siangco|
Title: Personal-care compounder and shipping manager
Job: Prepares cosmetics and oversees shipping for Oils of Aloha
Citing their healthful benefits, Siangco said last week that she uses the company's cosmetic products for her skin care, and its macadamia nut oil products for her cooking and salads.
Siangco has been working for Oils of Aloha since it was Kukui Nuts of Hawaii and produced mainly kukui nut lei. She was in charge of employees who handcrafted the lei, but cheap imports from Asia, including from her homeland, the Philippines, eventually drove the company into bankruptcy. That was when Dana and Barbara Gray bought the company and moved it into making cosmetic and food products using kukui and macadamia nut oils.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Siangco joined Oils of Aloha co-owner Barbara Gray on the packing and shipping line.
The company, which employs about 20 people, also sells its expeller-pressed oils in bulk; for example, six tons of macadamia nut oil recently were shipped to Russia, and seven tons to Switzerland.
The former Marietta Legaria moved here in 1971 as a newlywed to George Siangco, a Hawaii-born resident whom she had met through family in the Philippines.
She had been a sixth-grade teacher in the Philippines, for almost eight years, but her first job here was as a pantry worker at the Kuilima Resort (now the Turtle Bay Resort).
Three years later she joined Kukui Nuts of Hawaii, and was employed there for 13 years until it became Oils of Aloha, in 1988.
Siango, 67, never had any children with George, who died in 1998, but, she said, "I'm supporting all my nieces and nephews through college."
"We have three engineers - two in the Philippines and one in San Jose, Calif.," she said proudly. "One (niece) will graduate as a nurse this year (in the Philippines). My niece that I raised is an assistant for a film producer in Southern California - that one I raised like my own - and one is a school teacher in the Philippines."
Siangco herself is a graduate of the University of the Visayas, in Cebu in the Philippines, where she majored in home economics.
She resides in Waialua, "just a five-minute drive," she said, "from the working place."
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Marietta Siangco is personal-care compounder and shipping manager at Oils of Aloha, which sells kukui and macadamia nut oils both in pure form and as lotions, creams, shampoos and cooking ingredients. Above, the longtime employee of the company last week showed off one of the company's cooking-oil products.
What is your work title?
Marietta Siangco: My work title now is personal-care compounder, because I make all the batches of our cosmetics, like our lotions, creams, shampoos and our oils. I'm also the shipping manager. We ship our products worldwide.
Q: Is it just you in the shipping department or are there others involved, too?
A: No, I have two under me, two assistants.
Q: What kinds of products do you ship?
A: We ship all these Oils of Aloha products, like the lotions, creams, shampoos and oils, worldwide - because we are on the Internet (www.oilsofaloha.com).
How much shipping is there to be done each day?
A: It depends, Mark, because sometimes it's slow and sometimes it's not. So sometimes maybe 50 boxes, and other times up to a hundred.
Q: To whom are you shipping all these products?
A: We're shipping to our wholesalers and mostly to mail orders worldwide.
Q: Do you personally pack stuff into boxes?
A: Yes, we pack our products in cases, like 12 in a case, and then pack it into a larger box, with all this packing materials.
Q: I heard some of the orders amount to tons, and go to places like Switzerland. Is that true?
A: Oh yeah - other manufacturers worldwide, they buy from us.
Q: Like in Switzerland?
A: Yes, like Switzerland, like France, Japan, like Germany and England, and now Russia, too.
Q: You send oil in bulk to those places?
Q: How would you pack such a large amount to send abroad?
A: We ship it by boat when it's a large quantity, like in bulk, in drums - 30-gallon drums, 60-gallon drums; we ship it by boat.
Q: What about the nuts coming in? Are there always fresh loads of kukui and macadamia nuts being dropped off at the factory?
A: OK ... When we started the company, we used to pick in the mountain, because we didn't have enough nuts. But now, we have a source on the Big Island, and they ship to us every week, by Young Brothers.
Q: Are you talking about mac nuts?
A: Just kukui nuts mostly. The macadamia nuts also come from the Big Island.
Q: How did you become the shipping manager?
A: When Mr. (Dana) Gray started the company, we used to make Kukui nut leis - remember that? But we closed the kukui nut lei division about 15 years ago, because with all the imitation kukui nut leis coming in -from Indonesia, the Philippines - we couldn't keep up with that, because the lei is too expensive here, because it takes seven days to process the nuts, and we paid by the hour.
I was the production supervisor for the factory, but since we closed it - in 1993, I think - I moved to the shipping side.
But I was the personal-care compounder since the founding of the company.
Q: When did you start working for Oils of Aloha?
A: The founder of this company has already gone. I worked with him for 13 years.
Q: Who was that?
A: Mr. and Mrs. Bunzieringer.
Q: What happened to them?
A: They're not here. They passed away. And because those imitations were coming in from Asia, we filed for bankruptcy. Then Mr. Gray bought the company.
Q: And he turned it into an oils company?
Q: What was the company called before Dana and Barbara Gray bought it 20 years ago?
A: It was Kukui Nuts of Hawaii.
Q: Was it always in Waialua?
A: Yes. We were in the old Bank of Hawaii building, and we moved here (to our current quarters) in 1979, and have been here until now.
Q: What were you doing before you got this job?
A: When I came here (from the Philippines) in 1970, I was working at the Kuilima Hotel, for three years.
Q: What's involved in being a personal-care compounder?
A: It involves a little bit of chemistry. I have a background because I was a former school teacher in the Philippines.
Q: Where did the formulas come from?
A: From our cosmetic experts.
Q: What's your favorite part of the job?
A: I work anyplace, Mark. When Mr. Gray took over, I was the only one left in the office, so I work any place to help him. We just work as a team. That's why our company is successful, because we work as a team.
Dana and Barbara are very generous and honest people, and very understanding to the worker. If I didn't like them, I wouldn't stay with them for so long. When we need help, they're there for us, no question about it.
So we respect them, we sacrifice - that's why we're successful in this company. We work hard, we work as a team, and we respect each other.
Q: How many people work at the company right now?
A: Right now, including the staff, there's about 21.
Q: And what do they all do?
A: Dana and Barbara Gray are the owners, and Matthew (Papania) is the president, and he's in charge of all the operations at Oils of Aloha. He comes from Mississippi; he's a real nice guy. We have production people who help me make these cosmetics. I think I have at least three when I do production. And we have the bulk oil in drums; we have about four people to do that. And then in the office, about five people.
Q: Who actually presses the oil?
A: We have a big machine that presses the oil, and three boys handle that. Of course, Matthew is the president, and he also is a mechanical engineer, and in case the machine is not running, he handles all that.
Q: What are your usual working hours?
A: Monday through Friday, from 7 to 4:30.
Q: Do you use any of the products that the company makes?
A: Yes. I use the (kukui nut) cream, the lotion, and the oil. It's a very good moisturizing cream. It moisturizes your skin.
Q: What about the mac nut oils?
A: The macadamia nut oil also is used for cosmetics and food. We have all this macadamia nut oil in the stores now, like Foodland and all the gourmet stores around the island.
We have different kinds of macadamia oil. Like the pure oil is Hawaii Gold. We have macadamia nut oil infused with garlic oil. And macadamia oil infused with Kauai spices, for use on salad dressing. And we have this Pele's Fire, infused with Tabasco, which is good for barbecue.
Q: Do you use any of those products yourself?
A: Oh yeah. The bottom line is, it's really good for your health because there's no cholesterol. It's really good. It's even better than olive oil. It has a high smoke point, of 389 degrees.
Q: What does that mean?
A: In other words, when you fry, you only use a little bit and it doesn't burn your food.
Q: I guess I'll have to start using it.
A: Yes, and it's a healthy oil.
So this year, Mark, is our 20th anniversary (since the Grays bought the company and renamed it Oils of Aloha), and we will be representing at the Made in Hawaii show at the Blaisdell, on August 15, 16, 17. We represent at that show every year. We'll be making popcorn, smoked salmon, macadamia won ton crisp, pasta salad; we're using our Kauai Spice for the salad, and we're using our Pele's Fire for our smoked salmon, and our Macadamia Garlic Isles for the popcorn. (Laughter) The pure macadamia nut oil is for baking, like for cakes. The latest macadamia nut oil we make is Haleiwa Heat, which is a combination of Pele's Fire and Garlic Isle, which is good for a smoked salmon or any kind barbecue.
Q: Do you cook much yourself?
A: Yes. I'm a good cook. (Laughter) I think I'll be cooking the won ton crisps over there (at the trade show).