Local Entrepreneur Enlists the Help of Nine UH Hilo Interns to Launch the ‘Firm of the Future’

claire-group
The Fall 2017 Akau Accounting interns with UH Hilo alumna and business entrepreneur Claire-Ann Niibu-Akau, pictured front-and-center. Photos by Darryl Holland.

UH Hilo alumna launches a new accounting firm and offers internship opportunities to students

UH Hilo alumna Claire-Ann Niibu-Akau just launched her accounting firm of the future. Niibu-Akau graduated in December 2015 with a degree in accounting. She opened her business Akau Accounting this Fall, and is looking to innovate her field. She says, “I’ve been doing bookkeeping and accounting for about 20 years, but I began this firm in November. I wanted to continue to support small businesses in Hawaii.” Niibu-Akau has hired nine UH Hilo student-interns to help her revolutionize her practice through technological advancements. The Akau Accounting organizational structure is designed to be a virtual on-line accounting practice. This allows for remote anywhere-in-the-world bookkeeping for clients and also provides the company’s student-interns with flexibility. Niibu-Akau, her employees and interns are able to work at the hours that best fit their schedules and meet client demand from virtually anywhere in the world.

Internship program to provide a diversified and innovative environment

Niibu-Akau hired nine student-interns after participating in the UH Hilo College of Business and Economics Internship and Job Fair. One of her main goals is to help people in the community, and she feels that having interns is a large part of that. As a recent graduate, Niibu-Akau knows what the importance of a good internship experience can provide for students.

“I know that students are very capable and I believe that if given the opportunity, our UH Hilo students have great potential for self-development and personal growth.”

Of the nine students that have been hired, seven are focusing on accounting and two are focusing on marketing. Niibu-Akau says, “The cool thing is that the interns are so diverse in skill and background.”

The Akau Accounting interns hail from different areas of the globe including China, the Marshall Islands, Hawaii and the Mainland United States. They come from culturally diverse settings and bring expertise from various walks of life. Niibu-Akau expects that the interns will also help a lot of small businesses in the community. “Interns bring a lot of great ideas, a high level of energy and will grow in their knowledge.”

Meet the interns

Jiaqi Wu – Marketing Intern

jiaqiwuA junior business administration major from China, Wu says, “Internships can give me a good opportunity to put my marketing knowledge into practice.” Wu is hoping to build her marketing skills and get more professional experience by working in a real business practice setting.

Yuye Zhao – Marketing Intern

yuyezhaoIn her junior year, Zhao hails from China. She is looking to gain first-hand experience in the business world, “I suggest students take more internships to gain more real world experience. If they only study the classes, they may be far away from the real business world.”

Will Lewis – Accounting Intern

willlewisAn accounting major in his junior year, Lewis graduated from High School in California. He began the internship after being referred by friends in the CoBE department, “After speaking with Claire, it became evident that she had a very forward thinking vision for her business. The integration of technology into the accounting profession, as well as the business being built upon technological developments and tools really excited me.”

Wyatt Nelson – Accounting Intern

wyattnelsonNelson is an accounting major in his senior year at UH Hilo. “Being able to look at the inner workings of a business just by analyzing its finances is a prospect that I have always found fascinating, that coupled with the opportunity to provide financial advisory to others made accounting a field that I believe suits my talents and who I am very well.” Nelson also holds roles in various clubs on campus including the Accounting Club and the Delta Sigma Pi Professional Fraternity, and organizes tutoring sessions for accounting students.

Calvin Myazoe – Accounting Intern

calvinmyazoeAn intern majoring in accounting who will be graduating in May 2017. Myazoe attended high school in California and used to work for a bank, “I was advised by my supervisor at the time to attend college and study accounting… the more I got into it and understand concepts, slowly though progressively, I started liking it.” Myazoe is involved in the Micronesian United – Big Island Club and also the Pacific Islander Student Center. His advice to students? “Manage their time wisely. Everything in college is done by yourself. You do nothing, there’s no progress. Whereas, if you do your best, you put yourself in a position to succeed.”

Manuel Fernandez – Accounting Intern

manuelfernandezA sophomore at UH Hilo who grew up in California and is majoring in accounting, Fernandez has a very streamlined interest in this internship. “I hope to learn how to navigate the Quick Books platform and implement year-end adjusting entries to reconcile the client’s accounts for year end financial statements.” Fernandez lost two of his fingers in a carpentry accident, “The tragedy of cutting off my fingers afforded me the opportunity to pursue what was just a thought; my accounting degree and CPA license.” Fernandez also holds a role as the vice president of professional activities in the Delta Sigma Pi Professional Fraternity.

Krizha Tumaneng – Accounting Intern

krzhaA senior pursuing a double concentration in business administration of management and marketing, she is also a double major, working to achieve a degree in accounting as well. Tumaneng hopes to learn financial, management and marketing skills particular to the accounting field through her internship experience. Tumaneng is a member of the American Marketing Association on campus.

Xiaoting Liu – Accounting Intern

xiaotingliuAn accounting and finance major, Liu attended school in China before coming to Hawaii. This is her final semester at UH Hilo and she has been participating in internships regularly, “Internships definitely help me to build my experience and utilize what I have learned in the classroom, and bring it into a real business world [setting].” Liu is interested in building on her teamwork skills and accounting knowledge. She is an auditor at the Ron Dolan CPA Firm and the vice president of finance for Delta Sigma Pi.

Rissa Domingo – Accounting Intern

rissadomingoDomingo is a senior majoring in accounting who grew up in the Marshall Islands. She thought that this internship would provide a great opportunity to improve her skills and learn about her strengths and weaknesses while enhancing her professional confidence. “I want to know what is expected of me, how I can contribute efficiently and improve effectively, personally and professionally.” Domingo advises students to always have a positive attitude and educate themselves in all aspects of their lives. Her advice to students is, “Continue to pursue higher education and seize any academic and professional opportunities that come your way.”

New Business Course Emphasizes Community Outreach

Professor of Management Jerry Calton wants business students to change the world for the positive, one venture at a time.

Jerry Calton
Jerry Calton

A new business course offered at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is the brainchild of Jerry Calton, a professor of management and chair of the business department. Currently taught as Business Planning for New Ventures (MGT 425), Calton will be submitting the new course proposal this year to establish a new focus and rename the course Social Entrepreneurship.

The original class included the conventional small venture planning steps, but the new course—which has been taught for awhile now—adds goals and measures for social and environmental performance that Calton describes as “an innovative approach… in the context of founding a profit-seeking business venture.”

The goal is to challenge business students to engage creatively and collaboratively with the local business community to help form new businesses and help improve existing ones that will have positive social impacts. In essence, Calton wants students to change the world for the positive, one venture at a time.

“Business managers who have been traditionally trained, tend to focus too narrowly upon the single bottom line… they tend to be insensitive to ethical concerns or the concerns of other stakeholders,” he says. “The end result is that we have a business model that sometimes tempts managers to get as close to the line of the law as possible on the assumption that the closer you are to breaking the law, the more money you are going to make. This can lead to a kind of moral amnesia.”

Calton holds a doctor of philosophy in history and a doctor of philosophy in management, both from the University of Washington. He focuses his research and teaching activities on exploring ways to integrate improved social and environmental performance into the operations and decision-making processes of business firms. His idea in designing the new management course is to build awareness and foster manager interaction with a variety of stakeholders and their interests.

“To be a manager, you need to be embedded in the middle of a community conversation or stakeholder network,” he explains.

Community outreach

Christine Osterwalder
Christine Osterwalder

This semester, the class is taught by Christine Osterwalder, a lecturer at UH Hilo who holds a master in business administration from the Drucker School of Management at Claremont, which is known for its focus on educating the business executive as a whole person, with emphasis on the balanced scorecard and ethics. Osterwalder has over 30 years of marketing experience and has been teaching at UH Hilo for seven years.

“I love seeing the students’ creativity,” she says.  “It’s exciting to work on something that matters but to also keep in mind successful business planning practices. I think when students have good ideas, the local community benefits because each of the (students’) projects is tied to a real life organization.”

Pelenatete Leilua
Pelenatete Leilua

Pelenatete Leiluaa UH Hilo student majoring in business administration, took the course and says that it has been her favorite class to date. For her final project, Leilua and her cohort worked with The Makery in downtown Hilo, creating online promotional mediums to help market the organization’s artwork.

Nixon Jack is a UH Hilo senior majoring in business administration. He leads the Community Service Committee for the Lambda Psi Chapter of the professional business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi and is a member of the Hilo Chamber of Commerce.  Jack is taking the course this spring.

Nixon Jack
Nixon Jack

“Businesses, whether they intend to or not, have the potential to have a massive effect on individuals, communities or even the world,” he says. “I am eager to see the next big trend in corporate social responsibility.”

Professor Calton stresses the importance of building and maintaining long-term relationships and the need for ethics and an examination of one’s preconceptions, methods and procedures. “You need to have mechanisms that incorporate multiple voices,” he says.

In fact, a major aspect of the management course is networking, with one of its main points hinging on the active recruitment of mentors and supportive community members by student teams. After these teams have made contacts and built various working relationships, they can then have a sounding board to test assumptions, identify resources and plan viable business ventures.

At semester’s end, students are given the opportunity to present their community projects before a panel of faculty from the College of Business and Economics and members of the local business community. Some past social entrepreneurship plans have included a proposal to house the homeless, an idea for a “slow food” hub that would help improve nutrition and increase sales for local farmers, and the promotion of Hawaiian music classes in public schools.

The course will be offered online this summer, which is a great opportunity for students, especially considering that it is typically offered once per year, rather than every semester.

Originally published at UH Hilo Stories