COVID-19 pandemic inspired more people to start their own business in Hawaii

January 27, 2022


HONOLULU (KITV4) -- The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have unleashed a tidal wave of entrepreneur activity across the country. The U.S. Census Bureau reports paperwork was filed to start 4.3 million businesses in 2021. More people are also creating start-ups here in Hawaii.

Mana Up is a local entrepreneurship accelerator and usually it receives about 100 applications per cohort each year. Last year, that number jumped up to 130.

"Starting a business maybe it was, I always had this passion project, now is the time to do it. Or a lot of people got laid off, jobs shifted and it was a new way to engage entrepreneurship," Meli James, co-founder of Mana Up, said.

James says this year's program will accept 10 companies, owners will receive guidance on marketing, sourcing, funding and brand development.

"A lot of the companies that were applying, a third of them were actually companies that started in the last 12 to 18 months when they were applying in 2021," James said.

Peter Hessler's business was one of the 12 companies in last year's cohort. His creation, Pono Potions -- flavored syrup made with local ingredients -- started as an idea when he was a bartender in college.

"When I graduated, I really decided to take it to the next level and expand my business. Really, there wasn't any other option. It made me focus on my business and all the markets I can get into," Hessler said.

One lesson includes how to create an online presence.

"Not only from more people being comfortable buying online so that's global but also with our companies here really seeing themselves having a global presence," James said.

Mana Up is currently recruiting for its 7th cohort until the end of the month. This growing pattern of entrepreneurship, James believes, is here to stay.

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