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    30 Years of VRMA: Past President Lucy Kawaihalau

    As VRMA celebrates its 30th Anniversary, we are pausing to take a look back at the founding of the organization. This is part of an ongoing series recognizing key leaders and moments in the organization's history. 

    WOW! VRMA is celebrating 30 Years!
    My first memory of VRMA was in 1989 when Pat Curry (Co-Founder of First Resort Software) came to Kauai to market their software and he told me about VRMA.  After purchasing the software in 1990, I decided to attend my first VRMA annual conference in South Lake Tahoe.
    Michael and Rosemary Sarka were our Executive Directors and I had the opportunity to meet them and one of the VRMA Founders, Jim Morris and Melinda.  Before going, I invited one of my owners, Bruce and Tina Britton, who own the San Carlos Agency in Carmel, to join me. We had a great time and were so happy to be attending a conference of like-minded associates who wanted to learn more about the vacation rental industry.  
    There were approximately 60 in attendance. At the opening of the conference, everyone stood up to introduce themselves and their company, and tell how many properties they managed. This tradition continued for a few years until VRMA had so many attendees that there wasn't enough time because we needed it for the valuable educational sessions. This was the start of a wonderful journey.  Today, VRMA has more than 60 people attending most sessions.
    VRMA past and present: From left- current VRMA president Ben Edwards, former president Lucy Kawaihalau, former executive director Michael Sarka and former president Pedro Mandoki.

    I will always have a special place in my heart for the long-time friends I met in VRMA’s early days and for John Kjellman (Victorex Software) and the other VRMA Founders. As the years have passed, I am thankful for the relationships I have with so many new friends who continue to share common experiences and learn from each other to make the vacation rental industry the best it can be.
    Since 1990 I have attended most annual conferences and many regionals as well.  I have learned so much.  In 1999, I had the honor to join the VRMA Board of Directors and also serve with Dick Davis as the Co-Chair for the New Orleans Annual Conference.  Those who attended that conference will remember Michael's surprise to us when we were the parade that went from the hotel to the riverboat with a band at the beginning and another band at the end as well as a police escort. It was a memorable moment! At the closing of the New Orleans conference, everyone got ready for the next conference with mai tais and thus my work began as the Conference Chair for Maui 2000.
    In preparation for the Maui Conference, Michael Sarka and I travelled to all the islands to encourage many Hawaiian vacation rental property management companies to join us at the conference. Our goal for VRMA was to reach the 500-company membership mark, which we did with ReMax Kauai becoming the 500th management company to join VRMA.  That was fantastic to announce at the Maui 2000 conference and a treat to share the Aloha Spirit with everyone while we were on Maui.
    On the Board, I served as the Treasurer for a couple of years and then as President of VRMA from 2002 - 2004.  We were focusing on education for our members and started to lay the groundwork for the certification courses.  We also focused on getting the word out to the public that having your property managed by a professional management company was in the owner’s best interest.  As always, we continued to share best practices with each other.
    Our VRMA Mission Statement was always meaningful to me and I always said it out loud at the beginning of our conferences. I knew it was important to have it as visible as possible for our membership.  And, we made sure it was always visible on the website and in the newsletters. If we know where we are going as defined in our Mission Statement, then chances are that collectively we will get there.
    Another memorable time for me was when we were preparing for the 2004 Annual Conference in San Francisco at the Palace Hotel. The hotel workers went on strike weeks before the conference was to begin and we were expecting approximately 600 attendees.  Under the guidance and counsel of our Executive Director, Michael Sarka, and in agreement with the Board of Directors, we decided to move forward with the conference as planned at the Palace Hotel. It all worked out!  We had a lot of help from Sheraton management who came from across the country to fill in for the San Francisco employees. We became very familiar with the chant of the picketers, "Don't Check In... Check Out”. It turned out to be a successful conference and ended with a wonderful post-VRMA conference tour of the Wine Country for those who wanted to extend their stay in San Francisco.
    Who could have imagined back in the early days when I began in the vacation rental industry in 1976 how far it would come? After working two years with a company that managed eight vacation rentals, Clare Miller and I founded Kauai Vacation Rentals in 1978. After 10 years, Clare decided to relocate from Kauai and I continued on as the sole owner of the company with my amazing team.  I look back on manually doing the monthly ledger sheets for the owners until we had 60 properties and had our own software customized for us. Then in 1990 Tom Leddy installed our First Resort Software. Back in the day, we would mail photos to our guests with a self-addressed envelope to mail them back to us and we would give them 10 days to put down a deposit.  We also shared a fax machine with two other real estate companies. When we graduated to sending color flyers rather than the photos, we had to have the color copies made in Honolulu since Kauai did not have a color copier on island. You can only imagine how thrilled I am now to have a color copier in our office that we can use whenever we want.
    VRMA has a wealth of expertise and knowledge among its members.  I appreciate our current President, Ben Edwards, our Board of Directors, and our Executive Director, Mark McSweeney and his team who have done a good job utilizing technology to get information out to the membership.  With the Tuesday emails, webinars, and other educational opportunities, we can support and learn from each other as esteemed professionals in our industry.
    Moving forward, let's all stay focused as professionals on what we do well.  That is how we can best care for our homeowners, guests, vendors, accommodations, and our communities. Even with all the technology at our fingertips, it is our personal touch that makes the difference. We have an awesome opportunity to be in the vacation rental industry in this day and age and to truly make a positive difference in the world by facilitating special, memorable vacations for our owners and guests.
    It has been a grand journey and I am deeply appreciative for all of my wonderful associates whom I have met over the years and who have enriched my life in so many ways.  I truly feel like the luckiest person in the world and I’m looking forward to celebrating VRMA's 30 years in New Orleans!

    With Aloha,
    Lucy Kawaihalau
    President / Owner
    Kauai Vacation Rentals

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