There’s the Waialua that we think we know, the one where a rollicking Friday night starts with a round of headlight hide-and-seek and ends with beers on the hood watching the townies spin cluelessly around the Haleiwa-Waialua rotary, the Waialua where ATMs number about as many as traffic lights and both can be counted on one hand.
Then there’s the Waialua — tough, humble plantation town — that turns out folks like 34-year-old entrepreneur Todd Nacapuy.
"There’s that small-town mentality here that makes you want more than what’s in front of you," says Nacapuy, whose father, a former plantation worker, now operates his own papaya farm.
Nacapuy originally wanted to be a doctor, but he discovered an interest and an aptitude for business while attending Seattle University. He was participating in a management program at Boeing when a friend called with a crazy proposition.
"He said, ‘Hey, I got $20 million in seed money. Want to come work with me?’ Nacapuy recalls. "I didn’t even know what that was, but I said, ‘Sure.’"
Cobweb, one of the first e-commerce businesses, would prove wildly successful, growing from a modest operation (Nacapuy was employee No. 4) to a powerful company with some 900 employees. Nacapuy and his partners rode the wave for six years before selling the company.
Back at home, Nacapuy worked as a media consultant before landing a position with Microsoft.
"There are people who have been with the company for 15 years or more," he says. "They’re already millionaires several times over, so what motivates them is different. To work next to highly skilled, highly motivated people like that, and to be able to live in Hawaii, is a dream come true."
For Nacapuy, however, the realization of his own dreams obligates him to help others achieve their goals.
He’s partnered with restaurateur Hiroshi Kimura to launch Royal Hawaiian Cookies, a gourmet shortbread cookie line, and is helping Kimura’s Yakiniku Hiroshi restaurant expand its base to local foodies. He’s also provided business-incubator support for the nonprofit Northshore.com, a community business site.
It’s a small-town thing, perhaps. For Nacapuy it makes perfect sense.
And so he volunteers as a coach with Egan Inouye’s boot camp physical training program because he believes in what Inouye preaches (losing 50 pounds didn’t hurt). And he cherishes the memory of caddying for local golfer Kristina Merkle, a longtime friend, when she teed off in her first LPGA event.
"You can’t reach the top without help, and being able to repay some of that by helping others is what really makes me happy," he says.
Reach Michael Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org.