We are a Hawaiʻi-based initiative designed to build the state’s next 100 product companies earning $1 million or more in annual revenue. We do this by hosting a 12-week accelerator program offered biannually to enable Hawaiʻi product entrepreneurs to scale their businesses and an e-commerce platform selling Hawaiʻi products to consumers outside of Hawaiʻi.
We exist to help companies take advantage of our market opportunity here in Hawai’i and grow them into global companies, bringing to the world what really makes Hawaiʻi special. And in turn, creating sustainable wealth and livelihoods for Hawaiʻi locals.
Our home is at the historic Dole Cannery, with the support of Castle & Cooke and Dole Plantation as part of their community initiatives to support local Hawaiʻi products and businesses.
Meet Our Team
Meli James is a founding partner of Mana Up. James is also currently the president of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association (HVCA). Previously, James has been the head of new ventures at Sultan Ventures, as well as program director of XLR8UH. Born and raised in Honolulu, Meli lived in Silicon Valley for over ten years; there, she co-founded and contributed to numerous startups, including Nirvino—a number-one-ranked wine app, an Apple Platform Top 100 app, and a Top Ten Lifestyles app (during its time). James is a graduate of Punahou School and Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration.
Michael Cheski is a founding partner of Mana Up. Mana Up will be Cheski’s third initiative in Hawaiʻi in the last decade, including Aloha for Japan & Aloha for Philippines which brought in charitable donations of over $10 million. Cheski is a product guru and e-commerce strategist who has launched more than 100 new products throughout his career working with brands such as TLC, Food Network, Amazon, Road Runner Sports and most recently Shopify. Cheski is a graduate of Punahou School and Creighton University.
Brittany Heyd is a founding partner of Mana Up. She is also General Counsel at 1776 after serving as its Managing Director and before that, worked on economic policy at the Obama White House. Heyd holds a Juris Doctor / Masters of Public Policy from Georgetown University and a Bachelor’s of Arts from the University of San Diego.
Mia Harrie is a project manager at Mana Up. Born in China and raised in Oregon, Harrie graduated in May 2017 with a BBA in International Business and Finance from the University of Hawaii. While in college, she served two years as the President of the Hawaii Student Entrepreneurs Club (HSE) at UH, a club dedicated to helping students learn how to start and grow their own businesses. She is also on the founding team of a new startup called FLTR Glasses.
Mana Up Accelerator Program
Our first program started in January 2018 and includes 10 local product companies.
The goal of the program is to find opportunities to grow sales and tackle production challenges that typically come with fast-growing revenue, such as sourcing, manufacturing and shipping. The program will provide workshops, connections to a network of advisers, help in crafting an attractive narrative for expansion, and access to distribution channels through partners and digital platforms.
The criteria for application includes:
- Hawaiʻi-based founder and company
- Retail or value-added food product
- Owner has full-time commitment to company
- Elevates Hawaiʻi or Hawaiʻi brand through authentic connection, resource or store
- Quality of product and potential for international expansion
- Prefer companies who have $100,000+ in annual revenue currently
Kamehameha Schools will select two of the ten companies that join each cohort. Their criteria are the same as the general Mana Up accelerator program.
Our team brings a wealth of experience to help companies grow and we’re excited to dive deep into supporting each and every company that joins our program. The 12-week accelerator will provide the following benefits:
- Weekly workshops
- Weekly check-ins
- Matches to industry-expert mentors based on business needs and stage
- Support on branding and narrative
- Access to discounted services and resources (for example: production of marketing, video, photography, and design content)
- Access to distribution and funding partners
- Special programs such as fellows opportunity to work with King’s Hawaiian and National Hawaiʻi Foods Week
- Invitation to sell products on Mana Up e-commerce channels
- Invitations to events and meetings to showcase product
- Alumni support (monthly check-ins and continuing resources and connections after graduation)
- Presentation of product at Mana Up’s Showcase, our event at the end of each cohort to present products to buyers, distributors, and other potential partners for companies.
There is no cost to join our accelerator program. We ask that the committed companies give Mana Up the right to distribute their product on our e-commerce channels (non-exclusive).
We require that all companies who join our accelerator program attend all workshops and check-ins. Each week will consist of one workshop and one 30-minute check-in. Workshops will take place in the afternoons and must be attended in person. Check-ins will be scheduled individually with each company and may be attended virtually.
Cohort 1 Tentative Schedule:
- November 30, 2017: Cohort 1 Application Deadline
- December 15, 2017: Invite accepted applicants to Cohort 1
- Week of January 8, 2018: Public announcement of Cohort 1 and Workshop (Introduction to Program)
- Week of January 15, 2018: Workshop (Branding & Narrative)
- Week of January 24, 2018: Workshop (Positioning your company for Growth)
- Week of January 29, 2018: Workshop (Digital Presence)
- Week of February 5, 2018: Workshop (Evolving Manufacturing as you Grow)
- Week of February 12, 2018: Workshop (Distribution and Partners)
- Week of February 19, 2018: Workshop (Growing Your Team)
- Week of February 26, 2018: Workshop Growing Your Team)
- Week of March 5, 2018: Workshop (Exporting)
- Week of March 12, 2018: Workshop (Legal & Regulation)
- Week of March 19, 2018: Workshop (Maximizing Booths at Trade Shows and Events)
- Week of March 26, 2018: Workshop (Presentation Prep)
- Friday, April 27, 2018: Cohort 1 Showcase
* Weekly check-ins and mentor meetings scheduled individually with companies
* Workshop topics may (and probably will!) change based on cohort profile and preferences
“As both an educator and investor in our community, Kamehameha Schools sees entrepreneurship and business ownership as a strong career option that needs a more viable pathway for students and young adults. Through Mana Up, we are investing in key capacity-building critical for the success and growth of Native Hawaiian-owned businesses whose success will model what’s possible for others.”Lauren Nahme
“Mana Up is exactly what I need. I want to live and work in Hawaiʻi and still grow my business. Mana Up’s programs will help me position my product more effectively and undoubtedly increase my sales.”Brynn Foster
“Through working with and investing in local food entrepreneurs, we’ve seen the many challenges they face when growing companies here in Hawaii. Mana Up seeks to tackle those challenges in innovative ways and we’re looking forward to supporting this key area of our economy.”Murray Clay