About

Early Life

Vicky Tiu Cayetano, the sixth of nine children, was born on March 16, 1956, in Manila, the Philippines. Her parents were Chinese immigrants who had moved to the Philippines to escape the famine that ravaged China during the 19th century.

Her family later decided to move to the United States when Vicky was three years old, eventually settling in San Francisco, where Vicky grew up. After graduating from high school, Vicky was admitted to Stanford University, where she majored in business and economics. She left Stanford prior to her junior year to start a business—a travel agency that primarily served corporate clients. The agency was successful but Vicky, anticipating the potential impact of airline industry deregulation, decided to sell the company.

In 1982, she moved to Hawai‘i where she married and started a family. When the couple later divorced, Vicky took on the role of a single, working mother of two children, Marissa and William.

Building a Successful Business

An entrepreneur at heart, Vicky partnered with Mr. Masaichi Tasaka, then President of Kuakini Hospital, to form United Laundry Services (ULS) in 1987. The concept was innovative. Since ULS’ business was intended to service hospitals and hotels as clients, Vicky decided to persuade hospitals and hotels to join the venture as partners. Three hospitals agreed, and she convinced two of Hawaii’s largest hotel chains, Outrigger and Kyo-ya, which included Sheraton and the Royal Hawaiian, to complete the partnership. Vicky has worked as United Laundry Services’ president since that time.

Typical of startups, the first year was tough, as there was limited operational cash flow. Often working 10 to 12 hours, seven days a week, Vicky toiled for nearly a year without compensation. The business grew steadily due to her determination, perseverance, and resilience. After 34 years, United Laundry Services is the largest laundry company in the state—with branches in Hilo, Kona, Kahului, Lahaina, and Honolulu—employing nearly 1,000 people.

Becoming First Lady

In 1997, Vicky married then sitting Governor Ben Cayetano. As First Lady, she saw the need to preserve Washington Place for the people of Hawai‘i and visitors to enjoy and raised more than $1.2 million in private donations to construct a new residence for future governors. She has been very involved in supporting our community. She championed the fair adjustment of unemployment taxes and groundbreaking animal rights in the legislature, as well as preserved the performing arts by working to create the Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra after Honolulu Symphony’s bankruptcy. She and her husband also created the Ben and Vicky Cayetano Scholarship Fund to support students with the most financial need.

Making a Difference

Vicky has had a good relationship with the legislature. As chairperson of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai‘i in the late 1990s, she persuaded then Democratic State Representative Dwight Takamine, chairman of the Labor Committee and an ardent labor union supporter, to revise the unemployment tax formula to a level that was more than sufficient to protect unemployed workers and was fair to employers. Takamine agreed, and a bill was passed, saving businesses tens of millions of dollars.

Additionally, in 2010, Vicky and her sister, Ginny Tiu, both avid animal lovers, persuaded State Senator Clayton Hee to introduce and pass a bill banning the sale of shark fins in Hawai‘i. He agreed, and Hawai‘i became the first state to ban this practice, with California and other states soon following.

Vicky is an ardent supporter of music and the arts. She and ABC Stores CEO Paul Kosasa worked countless hours to revive live performances of classical music, establishing the Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra in 2011 to replace the defunct Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. The new symphony’s formation ensured jobs for the musicians, music education for students, and live performances for the community.

Caring for Our Community

Empathy is a big part of Vicky’s leadership style. She believes those who are successful should give back to their community in any way they can. United Laundry Services, under Vicky’s leadership, and the Cayetanos have given financial support to approximately 40 nonprofit and charitable organizations. In addition, in 2009, Vicky and Ben started The Cayetano Foundation Scholarship, which provides scholarships to 20 college-bound students from financially struggling families every year.

The Cayetanos live in Honolulu. They have three grown daughters and a son, four grandsons, one granddaughter, seven dogs, and two turtles.