January, 2007 Vol. 32 No. 1
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Published January 2007

Ball Players Captain a Winning Business Plan Team

by John Burnett
Catcher Natalie Fujimoto

Natalie Fujimoto

Two highly-decorated University of Hawaiʻi Hilo softball standouts spearheaded a team of students that took first place and a $1,000 prize in the undergraduate division at the statewide 2006 PACE Business Plan Competition. Leo Sing Chow and Natalie Fujimoto, both senior business majors, led the team that proposed Na Leo Softball Academy, a school in Hilo that will help young players hone their softball skills and attain athletic scholarships. Other team members include Yoko Nakamichi, Amy Parks, Jodi Peralta, Kahealani Silva and Laura Tanaka.

"We think that a softball academy is something needed in Hilo because there are a lot of girls who want to play, but they don’t have the resources that people have on Oʻahu," says Sing Chow, a pitcher and designated hitter who garnered 2005 Pacific West Conference Player of the Year and National Fastpitch Coaches Association Academic All-American honors. "We really want to follow through on this. It’s pretty much our dream for the future."

Fujimoto, a second-team NCAA Division II West Region catcher in 2005, believes the judges could sense their passion for the project. "The softball academy is something that we’ve dreamed about for two years and that we plan to do, not something that we invented for this competition," she says.

Entering the business plan competition was a requirement for Hilo’s Management 425 course, Business Planning for New Ventures. "These students are following a strategy associated with entrepreneurial success—work within an industry for a while, get some expertise, build some contacts and then start your business," notes Emmeline de Pillis, associate professor of management at Hilo’s College of Business and Economics. "Leo and Natalie are well acquainted with the needs of softball players. They know who their suppliers, customers and competitors will be. They have scouted potential locations and picked out several alternatives. Their dedication to building a softball academy in East Hawaiʻi allowed them to complete their research and writing and turn in their assignments as they were on the road with the softball team."

Vulcan Softball Head Coach Callen Perreira says their timing is excellent. "Softball players from the mainland fine-tune their skills by going to specialized lessons for batting, catching, pitching and base-running," he says. "To get to the next level, individuals need additional coaching in particular areas. Parents see it as an investment to pay for additional instruction as they do for academic tutoring. And Leo and Natalie have the energy and expertise to make this happen."

John Burnett (AA ’81 Leeward, BA ’94 Hilo, MEd ’00 Mānoa) is a staff writer for the Hawaiʻi Tribune-Herald in Hilo


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