Eric Carson, president and chief executive of Reflections Glass Co. and founder of WrightBuy.com and Diamon-Fusion Hawaii, has been named finance committee chairman of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Entrepreneur seeks to
help others make it too

Eric Carson

>> Has been named part of the leadership of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation, taking the title of finance committee chairman, starting this month.

>> Carson is president and chief executive of Reflections Glass Co. in Waipahu. He also is the founder and president of Big Island Glass, WrightBuy .Com and Diamon-Fusion Hawaii and serves on the board of the Young Entrepreneurs Organization in Hawaii.

What does the chamber's foundation do?

Basically the foundation was established about three years ago ... to provide an alternative for Latino youth. We wanted to create a venue where we could provide educational training and development for our Hispanic youth. I came on board three years ago and it was in its first year. When you get elected to the chamber national board there are 24 national directors, and two from each region serve on the foundation. Basically the mission is committed to giving Hispanic youth alternatives for life preparation through innovative programs and services.

What sort of partnerships has the foundation entered in Hawaii?

To be honest, because Hawaii is not independent of Region 1 -- which comprises Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, California and Hawaii -- we are such a small Hispanic market that we have not yet hosted our BizFest. A BizFest is basically training for our Latino youth. Because we rotate this BizFest around the country, our region gets it once or twice every sixth time. But we are having more corporate sponsors involved so we're beginning to be able to offer more. It's on the radar screen. I'm chairman of Region 1, so I have to advocate for all of my constituents.

What are the biggest challenges for young entrepreneurs in Hawaii?

I think that for young entrepreneurs, if I use myself as a test case, it is access to capital. The other thing obviously is credibility. Typically a young entrepreneur is selling into a peer group that is typically a generation ahead if not two generations ahead.

When I came here, I went to a business association meeting and they asked if I was here for the skateboard competition. I was 21 at the time and I looked 15. The other thing is when you need a bank, there isn't one and when you don't need one, they're all knocking your door down. I think every entrepreneur faces a credibility issue. The idea that I'm in a nuts-and-bolt industry where there's inventory and tangibles, it's a little easier to get them to understand the program. But someone in a high-tech program, I can't imagine. The Young Entrepreneurs Organization is an incredible organization.

It is a commitment of entrepreneurs at the highest level to each other. Imagine having nine business owners and co-founders that you meet on a monthly basis to discuss issues that affect you ... imagine when you can ask with total confidence someone who has the same experience -- they are working 70, 80 hours a week, they have children -- when do they have time to exercise? When do you pay attention to your wife or husband, and make it feel like you're not ignoring them? Only an entrepreneur can ask another entrepreneur at that level.

We are the premium peer-to-peer global community network and resource for entrepreneurs. Finding access to capital, you've already taken the first step because you're under 40 years of age, you have a million in revenue and you're the founder or co-founder. You are assigned to a forum and your group is basically your private board of directors. I can talk to them about anything personal.

Who are some other shining stars in the local Hispanic business community?

You have Martha Sanchez Minn who owns Mercado de la Raza and another would be Susana Ho. She is Peruvian Chinese and she's the president of the Hawaii Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Another real leader is Nancy Ortiz and she a has a company Alma Latina Productions and she's a radio talk-show host.

There's an up-and-coming star, Dr. Lisa Sanchez-Johnsen. She is a doctor who has put together a Latino health advisory board and she is working on issues that affect the Latino community, dietary issues, food consumption, smoking. Really what's she's trying to do is create an awareness about the unhealthy lifestyle that Latinos live in Hawaii. She is on a federal grant conducting studies right now.

Last word?

I will say that insurance is a real major issue that Hawaii faces. I really want to emphasize that. I think that is something that is going to really plague the construction industry if it is not grappled immediately. That and the lack of qualified trade workers.

Inside Hawaii Inc. is a weekly conversation with local business and community leaders. It is moderated by Star-Bulletin layout editor Tim Ruel. Submissions can be sent to business@starbulletin.com.



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