And the nominees are…


The Saipan Chamber of Commerce would like to share the nominees for the 2019 Small Business of the Year, 2019 Nonprofit of the Year, 2019 Chamber Member of the Year, and 2019 Saipan Young Professional of the Year.

Nominees for 2019 Small Business of the Year include Caravan Restaurant, Island Training Solutions, and Naked Fish Bar & Grill. The criteria for small business of the year included the following: (1) Less than 25 employees or less than $1 million in gross revenue; (2) must have a business license and operating on Saipan for at least one year. Nominees were chosen by the Chamber membership.

Caravans Restaurant
With a glimpse of the Middle East, Caravans Restaurant brings to life a true wholesome experience on delicious style of Palestinian cuisine. Inspired by authentic flavor combinations, their menu offers a fresh and fast casual take on a traditional shared dining experience. Caravans’ recipes are memories from the owner, Salam Younis’, father’s kitchen, and he commits to serving simple, honest and flavorful food that is good for you. They are happy to share this experience from Jerusalem to Saipan.

Island Training Solutions
Island Training Solutions is a full-service professional training and consulting group that provides compliance and development training to numerous businesses, government agencies and non-profits and has supported workforce development and re-entry programs for the Public School System, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and CNMI Women’s Association. ITS is also a service provider for Latte Training Academy, providing global and national certifications in Hospitality and Business from the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute and National Bookkeepers Association respectively certifying over 800 CNMI residents in various professional concentrations. ITS gives back to the community through support of various clarities, non-profits and causes exceeding $5000 in 2019.

Naked Fish Bar & Grill
Naked Fish Bar & Grill is a locally owned and operated restaurant established in 2004. They focus on sourcing and highlighting local goods and talent to create a fresh and modern bar and grill filled with Marianas favorites, such as savory seafood, artisanal starters and sharables, local island tunes, wines and spirits, and taps with local craft beer made right here on Saipan. Naked Fish is passionate about its small business mantra—“What we do for our community matters!”—by creating jobs for others to pursue their craft, making contributions of time and resources whenever possible, and encouraging innovation and entrepreneurism among our people.

Nominees for 2019 Nonprofit of the Year include 500 Sails, the American Red Cross- Northern Marianas Chamber, the Salvation Army, and the Tan Siu Lin Foundation. The criteria for nonprofit of the year included the following: (1)Must have local or federal 501(c) documentation; (2) have been operating on Saipan for at least one year; and services render to the Saipan residents. Nominees were chosen by the Chamber Membership.

500 Sails
500 Sails is a CNMI tax-exempt non-profit and federally recognized 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the revival, promotion and support of traditional canoe culture in the CNMI as a strategy to bring about positive and permanent changes in lifestyles to improve health outcomes, strengthen cultural identity and lead to a more competitive and successful local workforce for the tourism industry. As a direct result of their programs, thousands of local youth have new awareness and pride in our community’s indigenous maritime heritage; hundreds have learned to swim; hundreds have experienced riding on an indigenous sailing canoe; and there are now opportunities for anyone interested to learn to swim, to sail, to build and to own their own canoe.

American Red Cross-NMI Chapter
Since opening its doors in the CNMI in 1978, the American Red Cross has worked to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and generosity of donors. In 2019, the ARC continued this tradition by guiding residents through recovery from Super Typhoon Yutu, preparing for near miss storms, and offering care for residents struck by flooding and fire loss. As a trusted member of the community, ARC has driven recovery for decades.
Salvation Army
The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.

Tan Siu Lin Foundation
Since 1985, the Tan family, headed by Tan Holdings founder and chair Dr. Tan Siu Lin, has been very active in philanthropic work for the community both in the CNMI and Guam and in 2002, Dr. Tan formed the Tan Siu Lin Foundation to further promote the culture of giving back. Tan Siu Lin Foundation and its generous partners are committed to leading and supporting various programs, be it about health, education, sports, arts and culture, environment, tourism, and other initiatives that benefit our community and its residents. Giving back and making a difference in the community and people’s lives will help ensure that the island paradise we call home will always be a better place to live in.

Nominees for the 2019 Chamber Member of the Year include Aon Insurance, CNMI Small Business Development Center, First Hawaiian Bank, Friends First Marketing, IT&E, and Pacifica Insurance Underwriters Incorporated. Criteria included the following: 1) Be a member for one year, 2) Have one representative attend at least 20% of Committee meetings, and 3) Participate in at least one Chamber event/initiatives. Final nominees based on the criteria were selected from the Saipan Chamber Board of Directors.

Pacifica Insurance Underwriters Inc.
Pacifica Insurance opened in 1973 with the goal to provide the best coverage and service that will exceed expectations. Within the Chamber, Pacifica continues to support many of their programs. Representative Jane Madarang supported the Education and Workforce Development Committee, assisting with planning for the Saipan Chamber Scholarship Program and the High School Career Exploration Day. Representative Janel Pangelinan served on the Saipan Young Professionals board, participating in all SYP and Chamber events including Business Person of the Year, the Golf Tournament, Pitchfest, the Corporate Challenge, bringing speaker Coach Pain to Island, and the SYP toys for Tots Program. She was also named SYP of the Year in 2016. Additionally, Pacifica Insurance was the first to host the SYP Mixer event and has sent many of their staff to Chamber trainings, participated in the Career Exploration Day and Business Expo, sponsored the SYP Coach Pain event, sponsored monthly newsletter ads and always provided an assortment of in-kind giveaways for many events.

Aon Insurance
Aon Insurance is a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions. Within the Chamber, Aon helped coordinate and fund many Chamber initiatives. Representative Shayne Villanueva served as the Chair of the Saipan Young Professionals Board, led and supported SYP Trainings, helped bring speaker Coach Pain to island, and assisted the Toys 4 Tots program. Additionally, Aon Insurance sent their staff to Chamber trainings, participated in the Career Exploration Day, sponsored the 2018 BPOY Gala, Pitchfest, the Chamber Golf Tournament, and the SYP Coach Pain event.

CNMI Small Business Development Center
The CNMI Small Business Development Center supports the growth and economic development in the CNMI by providing high quality training and one-to-one confidential counseling to existing small businesses and to small business start-ups. Within the Chamber, Representative Nicole Babauta has been instrumental in the planning of many workforce and small business-related Chamber events. She co-chairs the Education and Workforce Development Committee, sits on the board of the Saipan Young Professionals, and participates in the Business Advancement and Sustainable Economic Development Committees. Events Nicole has helped spearhead include the inaugural Pitchfest, the Saipan Chamber Scholarship Program, the Business Expo, Coach Pain, Career Exploration Day, and Toys 4 Tots.

Friends First Marketing, Inc
Friends First Marketing, Inc.’s expertise is in bringing new patients to the dental community. Within the Chamber, representative Donna Krum, is known as the “Chamber Cheerleader.” She Co-Chairs the Sustainable Economic Development and Membership Committees and actively engages in the Business Advancement Committee. Donna supported the planning of the Business Expo, Pitchfest, and New Member Orientations. Friends First Marketing also sponsored the inaugural Pitchfest and attended SCC Trainings.

First Hawaiian Bank
First Hawaiian Bank is Hawaii’s oldest and largest bank, ready to assist customers with all their financial needs, be it personal, private or business banking. Within our Chamber, representative Vickie Izuka has consistently supported our youth through the Education and Workforce Development Committee, assisting with the Saipan Chamber Scholarship and Career Exploration Day. As a company, First Hawaiian Bank was very active with Chamber events, participating in the Corporate Challenge, the Business Expo, and Career Exploration Day. FHB also sponsored the Saipan Chamber Golf Tournament, provided many giveaways for events, and continues to provide banking support to the Chamber.

IT&E encourages customers to “explore your world” on the widest 4G LTE network in the Marianas and Guam. Within our Chamber, representatives Natashia Tomokane and Michelle Cruz are active on the Events Committee, assisting with the 2018 Business Person of the Year Gala and Saipan Chamber Golf Tournament. As a company, IT&E is one of our inaugural “President’s Circle” members, further supporting our membership by increasing their engagement. IT&E also participated in the Corporate Challenge and Career Exploration day, as well as sponsored the Saipan Chamber Golf Tournament, Coach Pain event, and Pitchfest.

Nominees for the 2019 Saipan Young Professional of the Year include the following: Nicole Babauta (CNMI SBDC), Riya Nathrani (CNMI PSS – Hopwood Middle School), Le’ah Aguon Murphy (CNMI PSS – Koblerville Elementary), Jeffrey Bacani (CNMI PSS – Francisco M. Sablan Middle School), Matt Deleon Guerrero (Hive Analytics), Francisco “Sonnie” Sablan (INAS’ Kitchen), Kevin Bautista (Office of the Governor), and Marie Aldan (Staywell Insurance). Criteria for nominees included the following: (1) Must be a young professional; (2) must have worked in the CNMI for at least one year. Nominees were chosen by the Chamber Membership.

Matthew Deleon Guerrero
Matthew Deleon Guerrero is an economic research and data analytics consultant on Saipan. He holds a master’s degree in international economic development and is an adjunct economics instructor at NMC.

Riya Nathrani
Riya Nathrani is a seventh grade Computer Literacy teacher at Hopwood Middle School and an Education Technology instructor for the Public School System with a passion for using technology, digital tools, and research-based practices to enhance learning. After receiving her master’s degree in Education, she realized learning never stops and is currently pursuing her doctorate in Education with a specialization in Digital Transformation. Riya has truly found her passion in contributing her skills to mold and inspire young minds and connect with young professionals as she devotes most of her free time to serving the community through volunteer work, civic engagement, and advocating for equal access to educational opportunities for all students.

Francisco “Sonnie” Sablan,
Francisco “Sonnie” Sablan, born and raised in Saipan, attended the Western Culinary Le Cordon Bleu in Portland Oregon and worked as a sous chef at Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion in Chandler, Arizona. In March 2018, Sonnie opened INAS Kitchen where he is a chef and managing partner. Through INAS Kitchen, Sonnie’s hopes to help the food industry develop at a scale to be enjoyed by our tourists and locals alike, promote the local food and infuse it with western and Asian cuisine, and to encourage more interest amongst young people to become entrepreneurs in the food industry.

Le’ah Aguon Murphy
Le’ah Aguon Murphy is highly effective educator of the CNMI Public School System. She is a service member of the community and an aspiring leader. Her vision for the people of the CNMI is to have a collaborative and creative learning environment to build a community of innovative, curious, and resilient life-long learners with a unique human intelligence through active partnerships among all stakeholders to prosper the islands in all facets of wealth.

Nicole Babauta
Nicole Babauta has been the administrator of the CNMI Small Business Development Center since March 2017, where her stellar performance has been recognized US-wide through her winning of the 2018 America’s Small Business Development Center State Star Award. Nicole is a graduate of the University of Phoenix with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management with a concentration in Global Business Management and a Master of Business Administration Degree. She dedicates herself to the community by serving as a Board Member of the State Workforce Development Committee, Isla Montessori School, Marianas Young Professionals, Saipan Young Professionals, as well as holds active membership in the Society for Human Resource Management and Co-Chairs the Saipan Chamber of Commerce Workforce & Education Committee.

Jeffrey Raymond G. Bacani
Jeffrey Raymond G. Bacani is a Leadership Corp instructor at Francisco M. Sablan Middle School. He has been an educator at CNMI PSS for 11 years and with the U.S. Army Reserves for 12 years. Jeffrey truly believes the saying “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Marie Aldan
Marie Aldan is the Sales & Marketing representative at StayWell Insurance. Over the last two years at Staywell, Marie has expanded their market reach by expanding a customer discount program, increasing their social media presence, and improving their relationships with their clients. A 23-year-old full time employee, student, and mother, Marie is currently continuing her education by taking classes online at Columbia Southern University for her Associates in Criminal Justice and Bachelors in Homeland Security.

Kevin Bautista
Kevin Bautista is the press secretary for the CNMI Office of the Governor and the secretary/treasurer for the Northern Marianas Humanities Council. In 2019, he was the Public Relations chair for the 2019 CNMI Liberation Day Festivities, organized by the Saipan Mayor’s Office and is a member of the Pacific Century Fellows – Marianas Chapter Class of 2019. A former intern at the US Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C., he earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science with minors in History and Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies from the University of Michigan in 2015.

The winners of these awards will be voted on by the Saipan Chamber of Commerce Membership from Wednesday, Jan. 15, until Tuesday, Jan. 21. For Chamber members to vote, visit
The winners will be announced at the annual Business Person of the Year Gala slated for Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, at the Hyatt Regency Saipan ballroom, from 6pm to 10pm.
Seats to event are limited and available for advance purchase only for $100 per person. Tickets include a formal sit-down dinner, networking, and a night celebrating the movers and shakers of our community. To order tickets, please RSVP online at, email Noelani at, call (670) 234-7150, or visit us on the third floor of the Marianas Business Plaza, Suite 315. (PR)

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