By Mason Chock
Owner, Kaua‘i Team Challenge/Kupu A‘e
How did you get started in this business and how long has it been going?
After moving home from college, I was a fire-fighter. The job sparked my interest in serving others. On my days off, I would work for Native Hawaiian enrichment programs. Over the years, I became more and more active in facilitating youths through their development and growth.
In 2000, a group of people, including myself and other fire-fighters, got together and built a challenge ropes course at Waipa on the North Shore. After retiring from the fire department, we began using outdoor experiential learning as an avenue to engage and empower students, adults and groups looking to build strong teams. We ran a mentoring program for children of incarcerated parents, retreats for corporations, and social programs looking to foster self-identity for children through cultural practices.
In 2005 I was asked to assist with the development of a leadership program for youths through Leadership Kaua‘i, and later became the executive director of the organization while continuing to run our Waipa Ropes Course until 2010. The combination of knowledge, experience and growth through all of these initiatives has led me to redefine Kaua‘i Team Challenge Inc. and expand our services. Because our services now extend to the whole state, Kaua‘i Team Challenge currently does business under the name Kupu A‘e. Its literal meaning is “to grow toward the light.” Just as a fern unfolds and stretches its shoots toward the sunlight, at Kupu A‘e we are dedicated to positive growth for individuals, groups and the community.
For those who may not understand what you do, please explain further.
We are a leadership development consulting company facilitating positive growth for individuals, teams and the community through experiential learning.
Where are you from originally and what role does that play in your business?
I was born and raised on Kaua‘i. I attended Kamehameha and University of Hawaii at Manoa. Being Native Hawaiian and kama‘aina defines my commitment and responsibility to Kaua‘i, our people and the future of our community.
What is your specialty and who can benefit from it?
Being the bridge for people. Groups and community initiatives benefit.
What sets your business apart?
Outside of the fact that there aren’t very many homegrown (Kaua‘i) services that specialize in leadership development through cultural practices and experiential learning, we have a philosophy of abundance and inclusiveness that supports positive social movements.
Why do you do what you do?
I do what I do because it defines who I am. My life experiences have helped me gain clarity around who I am and what my values are. My personal values are reflected in our company values and philosophy: To empower and enrich others, now, not later — to seize the day and live in the present, to live life to the fullest with love, and to inspire with integrity and insight, to grow. To heal souls, body, mind and spirit, and to value truth, honesty and service.
What motivates you to get up and go to work every day?
The work itself. I love seeing light bulbs click and people commit to what is most important for themselves and others. I love seeing trusting relationships develop before my eyes.
Do you have a business motto or philosophy?
“A‘ohe Pau Ka ‘Ike I Ka Halau Ho‘okahi.” (All knowledge is not taught in the same school.) —Mary Kawena Pukui.
What is the most challenging aspect of your business?
Committing people to lifelong learning. Helping people to get off the hamster wheel of insanity (life’s increasing demands and expectations) long enough to align what they value most with their actions. Helping others get through the blocks that are holding them back from more in their lives. Breaking old habits out of old systems.
What is your business plan for the future?
Integrating community, business and government, and creating shared outcomes focused on building resiliency, life skills and leadership so local youths can become self-directed and self-empowered on our island, having Kaua‘i serve as a model for this integration within our education, and working closely with leaders in reaching shared solutions and outcomes that will benefit everyone.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
I would probably be in the holistic health and wellness industry practicing la‘au lapa‘au more intensively. That, and living life to the fullest with the same values guiding my path.
Where can people learn more?
Photos courtesy Mason Chock