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Hawaii company makes the Inc.500 for 2009


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POSTED: Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Kahuku-based 101 Financial Group LLC has become only the second local company in 20 years to make the Inc.500 list of fastest-growing private companies. It is ranked at No. 437.

The financial education and counseling company provides service to middle-income families in Hawaii using in-home visits by trained, certified instructors.

This is the first year it could submit itself for consideration, as the magazine has certain criteria companies must meet, and 101 Financial hit those targets this time around.

“;We just sort of watched and waited our turn, and yeah, now we're excited to be part of the Inc.500,”; said Alan Akina, founder and president.

The company's growth has been “;100 percent organic,”; he said.

“;We've grown internally. We don't hire outside sales people or direct marketers.”;

Its growth has also come from word-of-mouth referrals, rather than traditional advertising.

The company's business model prevents busy working families from having to take time off from work to trek to a downtown office with expensive parking, only to realize some important documents have been left at home.

“;We work with (clients) on their kitchen table,”; Akina said.

The counselors teach budgeting techniques, banking strategies, debt management and credit-building steps.

“;I think that hand-holding-type education that we provide is filling a huge void in our society.”;

It charges clients a one-time fee amounting to a percentage of their debt and has an arrangement “;with some of the banks. They'll help to take care of some of these fees for our clients, but our clients pay for it over time,”; Akina said. It is not a credit-counseling service and does not negotiate debts or pay clients' bills, he said.

It has hired a small percentage of its clients to work as counselors “;because these clients are living the system that we teach.”;

The Inc.500 list goes online this morning and hits newsstands Tuesday, but Akina already received his preview copy. “;It's kind of surreal,”; said the Inc. subscriber.

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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Reach her by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).