President/Owner/Member, HKA Pacific LLC
Selected to be part of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Enterprising Women of Color Business Center’s Business Certification Training Cohort 6A/6B
“Figure it out.” Three simple words once told to Mikilani “Miki” Amby and ones that she’s chosen to live by.
Miki and her family are originally from the island of Lanai. After spending most of their careers in the visitor industry, she and her husband moved to Oahu to be closer to their children who were boarding at Kamehameha Schools, and she began searching for new opportunities.
She started working for the Hogan family, which is known for founding Pleasant Holidays and philanthropic efforts. One of her first tasks was finding out where to store a personal plane they had acquired. “That’s how I jumped into the aviation field. I hung out at the state offices and asked tons of questions,” she explained. “I figured things out and went along with it. A T-hangar was leased for the plane, which eventually lead to finding a contractor to build a hangar.”
Miki’s employer then wanted to incorporate the plane into the business, so she learned maintenance, flight operations, bookings, paperwork, and the many nuances of the Federal Aviation Administration. “It was a lot of trial and error,” she recalled. “We turned that into a successful on-demand private charter business with myself, two pilots, a hangar contractor, and a couple of mechanics.”
Eventually, Miki transitioned to working for a medevac company. When that business failed, she decided to put faith into her own hands. Thoughts like, “Do we continue to build other people’s dreams and businesses? What about us?” came to mind, and on March 2, 2021, she officially registered her own company HKA Pacific LLC. Her business journey includes navigating remote work, making cold sales calls, acquiring one piece of equipment at a time, and bidding for contracts.
“We finally got awarded a state hangar that we now can work out of,” Miki said, reflecting on the company’s most recent milestone. “You cannot work on a plane outdoors; you have to be under cover in a hangar or garage-like setting. It’s everything, it enables us to have our tools and pull in customers. Presence here at the airport is everything. You can talk about it, but they need to see it.”
Miki and her six employees are all locals, born and raised in Hawaii. The company takes great pride in operating with an abundance mindset where they believe there’s enough business for everyone and care about how their skills and experience can help others. They’re also looking at ways to diversify and expand to other areas.
Additionally, Miki hopes to find more locals who are interested in aviation and create better opportunities for others. “I’m a mom of three. I know how hard it is to send your kids to college,” she said, noting that it can cost $40,000 for tuition at a two-year aviation school. To address the lack of aviation programs in Hawaii, Miki wants her company to be able to train and hire local talent.
When asked what her biggest challenge has been as a woman small business owner, Miki is quick to point out that it’s being taken seriously by her male counterparts in the male-dominated field of general aviation maintenance. As a result, she’s learned on the job and can now talk shop with them. And despite stiff competition from mainland-based companies, Miki knows HKA Pacific LLC is different in that they’re part of this community and have a sense of accountability to it. “This stuff, we take it seriously. It’s other people’s lives,” she said.
Miki is proud that the company has survived its first year of business and that she and the business continue to move forward. While roadblocks will always occur, she’s focused on ways to go around them and lives by her motto, “Figure it out.”
Miki connected with the MBDA Enterprising Women of Color Business Center through her neighbor’s daughter who works for the U.S. Small Business Administration – Hawaii-Pacific Islands District Office. She began attending the Center’s webinars and was selected for the Business Certification Training Cohort 6A/6B. She’s currently working with the instructors Mari and Jose Villa on her application.
To fellow women entrepreneurs and small business owners, Miki offers the following advice: “Don’t stop. You don’t have a good enough excuse to stop. Keep moving. There are always going to be issues every day. What are you going to do? Fall down and cry? No. Get up and go, keep moving and figure it out.”