For our Client Achievement Spotlight, Guide Dogs of Hawaii would like to shine a light on a very inspirational and busy, to say the least, client of ours – Wanda Takaesu!
Wanda was born in Hong Kong, China, with an eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). This eye condition causes inevitable loss of vision over time. At the age of eight years old, she moved to the island of Oahu, and has called Hawaii home since. She graduated from Roosevelt High School and went on to continue her studies at Kapiolani Community College.
Wanda has a tremendously credible work history and passion for retail; ranging from her first high school job, working part-time at the Ritz Store, to her current occupation, running her own retail business! After working part-time at the Ritz Store, she worked part-time and was later promoted as a sales manager and trainer at Liberty House for 5 years. She was then hired as a store manager for Food Pantry, working at multiple hotel gift shops at locations like Ala Moana Hotel and Kahala Resort, for 18 years. Throughout those years, she realized that she was unfortunately losing more and more of her eyesight.
Wanda took the courageous initiative to start her own retail business so that she could accommodate herself and her own needs, at her own pace. With the help of her husband, she opened “My Little Corner”, an apparel store in Downtown Bishop Square in 2006. They sold clothing, gifts, handbags, etc. Over the years, her rent eventually increased by more than double. At that point, she realized she could no longer afford to pay her rent. In order to cover expenses, Wanda would work from her store during the weekdays, and on the weekends, she sold her products at craft fairs all over the island. She would continue doing this from 2003 to 2019.
In 2019, Annette, who is a good friend and counselor of Wanda, told her about the blind vending program offered by Ho’opono and encouraged her to pursue it. The Business Enterprise Program (BEP) currently enables 42 blind vendors to work at different service state, city, and federal government locations around Hawaii. These facilities are places like Kapolei Hale and Pearl Harbor. After contacting BEP, Wanda was able to not only move to more lucrative locations, but she no longer has to pay rent!
My Little Corner is now located at Pearl Harbor. She is so happy and enjoys what she does; the familiarity of having regulars and solid clientele is also a plus! She starts her day bright and early at 3:00am preparing for the work day, making sure she is on time to open for business at 4:00am. She closes shop at 2:00pm and spends another hour cleaning and preparing for the next day. She enjoys her work, keeping busy and working with her husband.
In addition to her busy work schedule, Wanda was appointed by the chairman of Hawaii State Blind Vendors Committee to fill a vacant seat in 2020. In 2021, she was elected by blind vendors to continue being a part of the committee. This committee represents and advocates for all the blind vendors across the state. One major hurdle that Wanda and this committee had to overcome was the effects COVID-19 had on blind vendors and their businesses. The committee was given a budget and had to decide how to distribute stimulus checks to all the blind vendors.
Knowing how important it is to do something enjoyable to relax and relieve stress from working, Wanda makes the time to participate in Guide Dogs of Hawaii’s “Young @ Heart Women’s Book Club”. Our Young @ Heart group meets on the first Thursday of every month, for about an hour or two. During these gatherings, members talk about books that they have read since the previous meeting; their favorite parts, something that surprised them, the author’s writing style and so much more. They also engage in fun activities like: lei-making, cookie and/or gift exchanges and getting-to-know-you games. The group enables its’ members to socialize and have an outlet of fun away from life’s stresses! Despite Wanda’s demanding work schedule, she always makes it a point to attend every meeting! Wanda really appreciates the Young @ Heart group… “All the ladies are so cool, we can talk about anything, and they’re so knowledgeable! It’s really nice to have something to look forward to every month!”
Wanda demonstrates that in spite of her disability, she can achieve her goals. You can see that she takes her commitments seriously. She independently does all that she can and knows when and how to ask for assistance. Guide dogs of Hawaii appreciates Wanda for the work she does, the positive attitude she shares and the hope she leaves behind for others to follow. In closing, GDH gives Wanda the last word…