A Can-do Attitude Does The Job

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - April 07, 2005
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Husband-and-wife team Kalani Wong and Joni
Dacuycuy-Wong of Mobile Fleet Images

If you’ve seen a Federal Express, UPS or Anheuser- Bush Budweiser truck on the road, you know the artwork of Kalani Wong and Joni Dacuycuy-Wong’s Mobile Fleet Images. The husband-and-wife team specializes in putting elaborate, colorful designs on many of the 45-foot trailers you see on the road every day. “Every company that’s with us is through word of mouth,” Kalani says, as he points out the spray booth, which is 60 feet deep, 18 feet wide, and 16 feet high.

Other clients include Pepsi, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Penski, Ryder, tour bus company Royal Star, Super Star, Ground Transportation and Morgan Corporation.

They and their 10 employees are celebrating the company’s 10th anniversary this year by starting another company that’s related to their business. In a decade of servicing trucks, the Wongs have been asked several times by customers if they know of any drivers. That’s why they established the Hawaii CDL School (Commercial Drivers License) inside their 20,000-square-foot Mapunapuna auto body and paint shop. The classroom can hold about 14 students, and classes are expected to start within the next few months.

“We’re having a customized tractor made in California,” the Wongs say.

The instructional truck holds four students and the instructor. The students use headphones as they view a video monitor to see exactly what the instructor is doing.

The Wongs’ positive attitude and their ability to complete a task is key to their newest endeavor and the reason they got into entrepreneurship in the first place.

The Hilo High School sweethearts started Mobile Fleet Images by working out of their 1995 Ford Aerostar van (which they still have today). After two months of training by an uncle, the couple then borrowed $1,500 from Joni’s brother Gabriel. (Joni is the youngest of 19 children.) For their first account, Coca-Cola, they picked up a truck on Friday, repaired, decaled and returned it by 10:40 Monday morning. The Wongs found out later that some Coca-Cola employees had a bet that the Wongs wouldn’t be able to turn it around so fast, since a project like that could take as long a month to complete.

Kalani, a Hilo Community College graduate in auto body work, says they both can work on the vehicles.

“I teach Joni almost everything,” he says.

“I was just following my husband,” says Joni, who keeps a part-time job as a customer service representative for United Airlines. “He pushed the business. I was being a follower and supporter.”

He serves as president and secretary of the company and provides the vision. She serves as the vice president and treasurer. Kalani, the second of four siblings, says what motivates him most to work seven days a week to fulfill his vision is remembering when he and Joni were poor. They had to scrounge for $2.60 to buy some gas for the car so he could go on a job interview. Their daughter,Aysha, who was then 5 years old, asked him for a cheeseburger. He couldn’t get her one back then, but he made a promise he’s kept.

“After this, I promise you all the cheeseburgers you want,” he recalls saying.

Owning their own business is a challenge and Kalani acknowledges learning to work with his wife is one of them.

“We have a lot of time-outs,” Joni says with a big smile and a hearty laugh. “We are together 24/7. It’s a challenge, but I don’t know what we’d do without each other — as crazy as it gets. We are friends, and we are husband and wife.”

Another goal for the Wongs is to create a good work environment. “I want keep my employees happy,” he says. “I try to listen to their situation. They can come and talk with us about anything and we do our best to take care of it.”

Joni agrees. “We stress respect. Everyone at the shop has to work with each other and help each other to work as a team.” Working together to figure things out is what keeps the business going.

“Give us a challenge, and we’ll take care of it,” Kalani adds. “We’ve never told a customer, ‘No, we can’t do it.’”

For more information about Mobile Fleet Images, call 833- 3093.

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