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The Southwest 5: The Hawaii Chamber of Commerce of Northern California
In many ways, Jaclyn Funasaki’s story represents the power of a strong connection to one’s roots. She’s the current president of the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce of Northern California (HCCNC), a valued Southwest Airlines partner. Headquartered in San Francisco, HCCNC serves as a bridge, connecting Hawaii expatriates in Northern California and sharing the Aloha sp. In this edition of the Southwest 5, we caught up with Funasaki to get a brief history of the Hawaii Chamber, the Chamber’s relationship with Southwest, and how the Chamber helped an expat new to Northern California connect with mentors and prosper in her new home.
Can you give us a brief history of the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce of Northern California?
I moved here in 2010. The Chamber started many years before I got to the scene. It was our three founders, expats that found themselves in Northern California for various reasons. They recognized that people from Hawaii naturally gravitate towards each other. It’s like this instant connection. Instead of hanging out socially, they had the idea to create an organization that could have social aspects and other benefits such as networking and making connections. They created a mission statement and a motto, ‘Aloha is our business’ to showcase the purpose of the organization. It’s very much a Silicon Valley startup story. They started off very small and now we have so much going on.
Are there unique challenges that businesses owned by people from Hawaii in the area face?
I think one of the big challenges is for us to keep increasing our support from the businesses in the community for what we’re doing here. Continuing to build on relationships we’ve established. We have good relationships with a lot of businesses and some of the universities in Hawaii. For us, it’s all about connecting Hawaii with Northern California, the people, and the businesses in the community. We want to keep spreading the word on what the Chamber of Commerce is doing. A lot of people see us and say “What are you doing here?”
How important is the social giving component, as opposed to just coming together for the purpose of making money?
Part of being successful in any business is positively impacting your community. If you don’t have that tie in, you may not be as successful as you could be. I believe in volunteering and doing a lot for the community, in addition to our professional mixers. We just finished the Cherry Blossom Festival. I’m not sure if you’ve worked a food booth at a festival but it’s a lot of work; trying to create a mini-restaurant in a parking lot! It’s not so much for the profit as it is showing people that we’re out here. By sharing food, we can create conversations and segue that into Hawaii and what to visit or see.
Talk a little about your partnership with Southwest.
I’ve known (Community Affairs & Grassroots team member) Kim (Delevett) for a few years. She’s amazing. She tries to come out to as many of our events as possible. Southwest has been a huge supporter of the Hawaii Chamber and we’re very grateful for the relationship Kim has created with our leadership and board members. We’re also able to raise some money from the raffling of donated airfare. Some companies say they’re like a family but they aren’t behind the scenes. But I get the sense that Southwest is what it preaches. It’s very inspirational to work with a genuinely good company.
For those not familiar with the Chamber, what’s something you’d want them to know that can’t be found on the website?
When I first moved here, I didn’t know many people. I found out about the Chamber and came to an event. From there, I found a few mentors that embraced me. And now here I am. They trust me enough to be president. I think that’s something that speaks of how we aren’t just saying, “Come join us and we’ll be your friend.” You come and we’ll be here to support you as an individual and a business. We’ll help you prosper. The Chamber helped me build a life in Northern California.