Maruyama Shares Her Experience at HANO


Lisa Maruyama was a guest speaker for the Hogan Entrepreneurial Program

Lisa Maruyama is the president and CEO at Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations (HANO) and was invited as a guest speaker on Wednesday night for the Hogan Entrepreneurial Program.

Maruyama, who graduated from the University of Hawaii’s Shidler College of Business is highly successful in being a part of one of Hawaii’s largest recognizable nonprofit organizations, and she shared her experiences of entrepreneurship in the nonprofit sector.

“HANO is kind of like the Trade Association or Chamber of Commerce for nonprofit organizations,” she said. “But, where we depart is in the purposeful choice of the word, ‘alliance,’ as part of our name, as opposed to ‘association’ because we don’t just work for our paid members, we really are working for nonprofit organizations.”

Maruyama, who has been at HANO since September 2008, shared her most memorable experience with working at HANO.

During the recession, when the Hawaii state legislature was looking everywhere for money, there was a bill that was made to remove all sales tax exemptions for businesses in almost every industry, including HANO.

Maruyama mentioned that the Finance Committee for the Legislature likes to have melodramatic meetings through the night, and she was there waiting with all of the lobbyists at 11:30 p.m.

She said that the speaker of the Finance Committee was livid because none of the lobbyists came to participate in the hearing earlier in the morning about state revenues but decided to show up at 11:30 p.m.

The speaker of the Finance Committee felt that all the lobbyists that showed up for the night hearing were there for their own special interests. He was provoking every lobbyist on the bill to explain their reasoning as to why they should be tax exempted.

At the moment when the speaker called on Maruyama to share her reasons, the first thought that came to her mind was to be her authentic self.

“With all due respect Mr. Speaker. I don’t even know why I am here. I am not of special interest,” Maruyama told the Chaminade students as she recalled her meeting with the committee. “We are your partner in government. If you charge us tax on this do you really think we can afford this tax? Do you think if you impose this tax on us, and we close our doors, do you think the government can do this in our place for cheaper, faster and more efficiently? Do you not rely on us as a partner to meet your goals? And so why are you treating us like this? Why would you do this to us? We are not here for the preservation of our organization. We are here for the preservation of the community for services that even you, Mr. Speaker avail yourself of.”

As Maruyama walked out of the hearing, all of the other lobbyists congratulated her saying: “More power to you! We cannot talk that way to the speaker because we are of special interests.”

Maruyama felt that it was at that sentimental moment that she learned something new about herself. She found her voice and passion for her work when she spoke to what’s true to herself.

In working for HANO, Maruyama has learned that nonprofit organizations are just as valuable to the economy and society as much as for-profit organizations and the government. The nonprofit sector is not recognized as a major part of the economy. So this is where the Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations becomes a very valuable part of Hawaii’s nonprofit sector because it helps nonprofits save time and money.

“A society, for example, is like the three-legged stool, and what makes up the balance in society is government, for-profit organizations, and nonprofit organizations,” she said.

With her experience in HANO, Maruyama suggested that the elements that spur entrepreneurship through working in the nonprofit sector are characteristics such as creativeness, adaptiveness, resourcefulness, being scrappy, having start-up culture, and being nimble in survival strategies. All of these elements are actually important for anyone that wants to thrive as an entrepreneur.