SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year

SBA’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Kimura, says one of his biggest challenges has been overcoming misperceptions about his age. “When you are young, you really have to sell yourself and then your service,” he said. But Gwen Yamamoto, the business banking manager with City Bank who nominated Kimura for the SBA award, said she knew as soon as she met him that Kimura he would be successful in his business. 

“He has all the qualities everyone wants. He’s very focused, goal oriented, articulate and mature,” Yamamoto said. “As soon as I got to talk to him I knew immediately he was the right candidate.” 

Kimura, who started Energy Conservation Hawaii in 1998 found the right niche at the right time. The power crisis in California got a lot of people thinking about rising energy costs and ways to conserve, he said. “After California I think people became more conscious, especially when electric rates hit the ceiling,” he said. 

The company specializes in energy efficiency systems and retrofits lighting, air  conditioning, hot water and motor systems in commercial and industrial buildings. Kimura, the president and owner who also serves as one of the firm’s engineers, employs 15 people. 

Kimura is looking ahead to working on large energy project developments such as giant cooling systems that would cool three or four buildings in a city block all at once. He is already thinking about the new generation of energy technologies. “Any business needs to use energy no matter what,” he said. “Control is what it comes down to in energy.” 

No small success 

Lam, Kimura honored 

by Small Business Administration 

GEORGE F. LEE / 

GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COMThanh Quoc Lam, founder of Ba-Le, is this year’s Small Business Administration Entrepreneur of the Year. Ba-Le is the Vietnamese word for Paris. 

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By Lyn Danninger ldanninger@starbulletin.com 

Darren Kimura, already acknowledged as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s regional Young Entrepreneur of the Year, has a path laid before him. It is set by Thanh Quoc Lam — this year’s regional Entrepreneur of the Year — who in 1989 won the same award as Kimura. 

Kimura and Lam are two of the 28 small business owners and advocates will be honored by the SBA on April 23. 

Kimura, president of Energy Conservation Hawaii LLC, not only placed first in his category in Hawaii, but has now been named Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the SBA’s region that includes California, Oregon and Washington. 

The SBA accolades hold particular significance for Hawaii’s small business community, said Jane Sawyer, the administration’s assistant district director for business and entrepreneurial development. 

“In Hawaii we don’t have the friendliest small business environment so this is a major testament to their leadership and business skills,” she said. 

Lam began the now-familiar chain of Ba-Le Sandwich and Bakery stores in 1984. As an immigrant from Vietnam, Lam’s rise to success came about as a result of hard work, perseverance and the ability to take on new challenges. Even throughout economically stagnant 1990s, Lam continued to expand his business.Lam also wholesales baked goods to many businesses. He admits to still working 14-hour days but says it’s a big improvement from when he first started the business and worked 20-hour days. 

Lam is modest about his many successes. He has no particular words of wisdom for other 

would-be entrepreneurs. 

“I try to not advise anyone. Just try your best, work hard, be honest and keep your word,” he 

said. “I guess the best thing is to do what you love to do.” 

Lam will be receiving this year’s SBA award for the second time. Like Kimura, he was 

previously named Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Now, some 13 years later, Lam’s multimillion 

dollar operation in Hawaii will soon branch out to Japan when two Ba-Le outlets 

open in Nagoya. 

Lam said he dreams one day of taking the Ba-Le concept to China. In the meantime, there 

are 21 Ba-Le sandwich outlet franchises on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, and one he 

retains. With Lam’s help, a number of former Ba-Le employees have now become franchise 

owners. 

The company’s bakery prepares and wholesales pizza dough, deli sandwiches and baked 

goods to a variety of clients including airlines, caterers, hotels, markets and restaurants. At 

the company’s Honolulu headquarters and bakery plant, Lam employees 71 people. 

More immediately, Lam has plans for further Hawaii growth. He will open a new Ba -Le 

franchise at Daiei on Kaheka Street next month and plans another store and a bakery for 

Kapolei in August. 

SBA’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Kimura, says one of his biggest challenges has 

been overcoming misperceptions about his age. 

“When you are young, you really have to sell yourself and then your service,” he said. 

But Gwen Yamamoto, the business banking manager with City Bank who nominated 

Kimura for the SBA award, said she knew as soon as she met him that Kimura he would be 

successful in his business. 

“He has all the qualities everyone wants. He’s very focused, goal oriented, articulate and 

mature,” Yamamoto said. “As soon as I got to talk to him I knew immediately he was the 

right candidate.” 

Kimura, who started Energy Conservation Hawaii in 1998 found the right niche at the right 

time. 

The power crisis in California got a lot of people thinking about rising energy costs and 

ways to conserve, he said. 

“After California I think people became more conscious, especially when electric rates hit 

the ceiling,” he said. 

The company specializes in energy efficiency systems and retrofits lighting, air 

Honolulu Star-Bulletin Business Page 3 of 4 

http://starbulletin.com/2002/03/12/business/story2.html 10/9/2005 

conditioning, hot water and motor systems in commercial and industrial buildings. 

Kimura, the president and owner who also serves as one of the firm’s engineers, employs 15 

people. 

Kimura is looking ahead to working on large energy project developments such as giant 

cooling systems that would cool three or four buildings in a city block all at once. He is 

already thinking about the new generation of energy technologies. 

“Any business needs to use energy no matter what,” he said. “Control is what it comes 

down to in energy.” 

 

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