When Momi Cazimero started her career choice was ruled by men and because of that she battled gender discrimination and personal hardship.

When society told her that women couldn't cut it in the world of Graphic Design, she proved them wrong. 

As a homegrown Hawaiian of Big Island's Hamakua Coast, Cazimero remembers hanai life with grandparents Annie and John Waihe'e of Pepe'ekeo.

For her, those were the good days, but also the start to some of her hardest years.

At one point she felt like a foreigner in her own family, she moved to Hilo with her parents and siblings at 8-years-old following the death of her grandfather.

Through the big life adjustments she went through, art was her outlet.

Art was a blossoming talent recognized by her teacher, a foreshadow of her future. 

"She said that you're a very good artist. It came at a time when it provided some type of direction," Cazimero said.

Cazimero eventually left the cane fields for Kapalama then went on to college with her sights set on teaching.

"I wanted to be a teacher and guess what, I wanted to teach art," Cazimero said.

A change of heart and change of direction came when Cazimero met then University of Hawaii of Manoa professor Kenneth Kingery.

Kingery remained her mentor that she says helped her realize her desire for design outweighed her intent to teach.

"I needed to know where I was going, I didn't want to just leave. So Kingery gave me a reason and a place to go," Cazimero said.

Stepping into a career ahead of its time, she saw its potential and promise.

"I wanted to elevate the images and icons of Hawaii and Hawaiians. And I saw that potential in graphic design," Cazimero said. "Was it going to be hard? Yes, did I want to do it in spite of it? Yes."

Cazimero recalls one of her earliest projects openly ridiculed and mocked by a manager of a publishing plant she was working with.

"I am in this environment of men when there's a kind of abuse that negates the value of a woman," Cazimero recalls.

Instead of defeat, she used that moment to fuel her creative fire.

"When you overcome one, you can overcome the next. And pretty soon you can do the next and the next," Cazimero said. 

She was determined to blaze past future barriers, and scorch stigmas of being a minority.

"I'm Hawaiian, I'm a woman and I was raised in the cane field," Cazimero said. 

Hard work paid off and in 1972 Cazimero founded the first female-owned graphic design firm, Graphic House.

As the boss, Cazimero called the shots.

"I knew I had to create a visual impression that denoted me as a business woman," Cazimero said.

Clients came in and through the years Cazimero's reputation grew, leading her to land big accounts like 'Castle and Cooke.'

Every piece created through her career is precise and purposeful.

"When you're designing a logo, you must get to it's essence," Cazimero said.

And every layout she touched she left a trace of her legacy. Not just a catalyst for creation, Cazimero committed herself to her community serving on the UH Board of Regents, and the State Judicial Selection Commission.

"I wanted to be certain that I paved the way for other women to follow. I really considered that a responsibility," Cazimero said.

She is a woman who desired to design her own destiny and after almost five decades, Momi Cazimero closed Graphic House choosing instead to finish some passion projects.