Building Bridges

Cynthia Manley and Kailua Chamber of Commerce foster partnerships between businesses and the Kailua community.

Thirteen years ago, Cynthia Manley traveled to Hawai‘i for the first ti me. It didn’t take long for her to fall in love with the islands and, more specifically, Kailua.

“This was home,” she says. “Kailua was home.”

She moved from Virginia, where she had been working as a registered private investigator. Before that, Manley spent several years as a morning radio personality in California.

But as disparate as her background may seem, one thing was constant: ti me she spent working with the community.

In California, she was youth leader with American Red Cross. And on the East Coast, she volunteered with the military and with the sheriff ‘s search and rescue team.

So when Le Jardin Academy—where Manley serves as director of public relations—began looking at ways to get involved with the community, she saw an opportunity for growth with Kailua Chamber of Commerce. It is a synergy that has proven successful for Le Jardin.

“Our students are finding opportunities within Chamber members and learning more about things that we do in the community more, which is nice,” Manley says.

Since last year, she has served as president of the Chamber. Its mission, she says, is to work with the Kailua community to help its businesses thrive.

With about 173 members currently, the Chamber seeks to accomplish this through speakers and educational workshops. Sessions have covered anything from social media to addressing generational differences among employees. All of this, says Manley, is to equip Chamber members with the tools necessary to operate effectively and successfully.

Beyond this, the Chamber also provides personalized care to area businesses. Weekly, the Chamber’s membership committee visits each business to assess and respond to any needs it may have.

She credits much of the Chamber’s success to the people who comprise it—all of whom, including Manley, do everything voluntarily. As its leader, Manley ensures that the organization’s open communication policy is upheld.

“My job is really to open paths—to have a broader vision, a ‘big picture’ kind of view,” she says, “and to help our board find ways to get that vision to help with what our businesses need, and what they ask for and what they want.”

This year, Manley hopes to continue to foster community partnerships. In May, she plans to bring back Symphony in the Park with Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra, which last summer brought out some 1,200 residents.

More importantly, with bigger businesses like Target joining the Kailua community, Manley plans to focus much attention on addressing those concerns.

“One of the biggest initiatives for the Chamber is how to help our local businesses thrive in the inevitable change,” she says.

Still, Manley says that she has learned a lot working with the Chamber—that its residents work hard and that they deeply care for Kailua.

“When I see people stand up at the Chamber luncheons and they’re so passionate about something, it’s because they care— you love it, you hate it sometimes,” she adds. “But that’s just what makes life interesting, and I think for me, that is just fun.”