Generations of Leadership - Meet One of Our Woman-Owned Dealers

In honor of Women’s History Month, we shine a spotlight on a remarkable women-owned business whose longstanding partnership with MillerKnoll is fundamental to our go-to-market and sales strategy.

Our featured dealer, Wendy Shewalter, CEO of Office Pavilion Hawaii, is shaping a future that thrives on inclusivity, ingenuity, and compassionate leadership.

Established in 1986 by Wendy's mother, Gerri Hayes, Office Pavilion Hawaii has been a trusted Certified Dealer partner of MillerKnoll for nearly four decades. Together, they have provided world-class service and high-quality furnishing solutions for Hawaii’s hospitals, schools, government facilities, non-profit and private corporations, as well as the Pacific Rim. Today, Wendy’s dedicated leadership is moving the company, local community, and industry forward through her commitment to creating the best place to work, serve, learn, and heal. 

We are proud to celebrate the invaluable contributions of trailblazing women like Wendy to both the office furniture industry and the broader community.

Read on to learn more about Wendy and Office Pavilion Hawaii.

Wendy Shewalter, CEO of Office Pavilion Hawaii

Q: Could you share a little about your background and what inspired you to become a business owner?

A: My journey began at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where I initially pursued a career in medicine.  During a break from school, I started working at my family's business, Office Pavilion Hawaii and gained invaluable experience in multiple roles, starting in sales.  My mother, Gerri Hayes, was the owner at that time. 

The birth of my first son prompted a pivotal decision in my life – continue medicine or be a fully engaged mother. I chose my family, which led me to shift my academic focus and graduate with a bachelor's degree in Psychology. This choice ultimately led me down the path that I am on today. 

As my mother began planning for the future, she provided an opportunity for my sister and me to acquire ownership of the business. Eventually, I took over as the sole owner after my sister retired. Although I never envisioned a career in the furniture industry, I've found my calling in leading a company that cares deeply for its employees, customers, and the community. My initial aspiration to help people as a doctor has transformed into a commitment to nurturing a business that positively impacts the lives of those around me.

Wendy Shewalter, Gerri Hayes, and Leanne Hachey

Q: What women played a pivotal role in influencing your entrepreneurial journey?

A: The most influential woman in my journey is undoubtedly my mother. Her resilience, determination, and vision have had a profound impact on shaping who I am today.  

The single mother bravely moved to Hawaii with nothing but two suitcases and two daughters.  She faced unexpected challenges upon arrival when a job offer fell through. Undeterred, she persevered and eventually started her career in sales with MBI Seattle. After navigating through several business shifts, she boldly seized the opportunity of acquiring a small, one-person dealership. Her entrepreneurial spirit and fortitude laid the foundation and forged a bright path for the Office Pavilion we know today.  

Today, our company is a testament to my mother's vision, grown into a dynamic team of talented women who are instrumental in shaping the spaces where we live and work. As we celebrate Women's History Month, we honor our company's legacy and embrace the empowering truth that "behind every great woman is another great woman" (Kate Hodges). 

Q: Have you encountered any gender-related challenges within your career? If so, how did you navigate them?

A: As an optimist, I tend to focus on the positive and overlook the negative. However, during my time working overseas in a predominantly male-dominated field, there were instances where my contributions were not fully recognized. Rather than letting it deter me, I used it as motivation to excel even further. This resilience and determination are traits I've inherited from my mother. She was a formidable force, a "tiger" you wouldn't want to cross, and I proudly carry forward that same strength and tenacity in my journey.

Q: What is your leadership style and how has it contributed to the success of your business?

A: My leadership style is deeply collaborative. I see my employees as partners in our collective mission, and I believe in leading by example, often jumping in to contribute directly to the work at hand. Understanding the nuances of our operations is crucial for me, as it informs my strategic decisions. Additionally, I am committed to investing in women leaders within our organization, providing opportunities for growth and empowerment. This approach fosters a sense of unity and shared purpose, which I believe has been a key factor in the success of Office Pavilion Hawaii.

Q: What contributes to employee engagement and the culture of your business?

A: At OP, we believe that employee engagement and a positive company culture is deeply rooted in promoting work-life balance and truly caring about each other.  We encourage our team to recommend community service initiatives that are close to their hearts so we can support them together and make a meaningful impact.

We prioritize supporting our team's overall well-being through a variety of programs. While we provide resources for physical health, such as personal workout sessions on our rooftop garden, true well-being extends beyond physical fitness. We emphasize a results-oriented approach rather than focusing on strict schedules, trusting our employees to manage their time effectively. This flexibility extends to personal commitments, allowing employees to attend to family needs without sacrificing work productivity.

Aside from other offerings such as group social events and educational opportunities, we are proud to offer our team support for financial and retirement planning, which are important aspects of overall well-being. 

OP Hawaii Community Engagement

Q: How does OP Hawaii engage in the local community?

A: We are deeply committed to supporting our community. We are involved with Rotary and recently partnered with the area Rotary Clubs to host a blood drive at our office, inviting employees, family, and friends in a community effort to save lives. I served as a Past President and continue to actively contribute to various community projects.

We proudly support and donate to the local chapter of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), fostering the growth and development of the interior design profession. We also strongly believe in empowering women and children. We are long-time supporters of the International Women’s Fund as well as Ho'ola Na Pua, a local non-profit dedicated to preventing sex trafficking of young girls and providing care for children who have been exploited. We’ve also supported Maui Strong to help those devastated by the recent Maui wildfires. We deeply believe in caring for others and are grateful to make a positive impact in our community.

Q: What is your vision for the future and how do you see your business evolving?

A: Our vision for the future is one of continued growth and innovation.  We aim to expand our offerings by introducing new product lines and showcasing updated healthcare vignettes.  We've identified education and healthcare as key growth markets and are excited about the momentum we're building in these areas.

We are also excited about our new DXC showroom, featuring our new OP Build Division and the many flexible solutions of DIRTT and prefabricated interior construction.  Additionally, we are proud to have women installers in our Service Division and are committed to increasing their representation as part of our dedication to diversity and inclusion.  

Looking ahead, succession planning is a priority, as we explore the future of our leadership roles. Our goal is to ensure the long-term sustainability and success of Office Pavilion Hawaii, while staying true to our values and mission.

The Office Pavilion Team

Q: What would you like readers to know about Office Pavilion Hawaii?

A: Integrity is at the heart of our business. We are committed to keeping our promises and consistently exceeding customer expectations. Our philosophy is to be realistic and honest but always strive to over-perform, as we believe it is better to lose initial business than to disappoint our customers by not meeting their goals and deadlines. 

Diversity and inclusivity are an integral part of our identity. Being located on Oahu, we are immersed in Hawaii’s vibrant international melting pot. We are proud of the diverse blend of cultures, nationalities, and gender identities within our team. This diversity is more than a characteristic; it is a significant asset, allowing us to bring a wide range of perspectives and ideas to the table, enriching the solutions we deliver to our clients.