Hawaii business development initiative Mana Up recently launched a new partnership with local staffing and human resources firm Altres that’s designed to help emerging companies grow.
Founded in 2017 by Meli James and Brittany Heyd, Mana Up exists to help local product companies scale globally, and the new partnership is designed to support the entrepreneurs who have gone through Mana Up’s accelerator program as they continue to grow their operations. Through the partnership, Altres will provide Mana Up companies with access to mentorship, employer resources, and more.
In a statement announcing the partnership, Mana Up said the program was designed “specifically for new businesses in Hawaii to streamline and ease the burden of employment administration and hiring.”
“As a local business owner, I completely understand the hurdles that entrepreneurs face when building a company in Hawaii,” Altres President and CEO Barron Guss said in a statement. “I am thrilled that this initiative and partnership will catalyze the growth of local businesses and ease the entrepreneurial journey along the way.”
To date, a total of 74 companies have gone through Mana Up’s accelerator. According to Mana Up, the companies in its portfolio generate an estimated $61 million in annual revenue and provide 515 jobs.
A spokesperson for Mana Up told PBN in an email that the services available through the new partnership are provided at no cost to the companies. Plus, the spokesperson noted, “it’s for all companies in our portfolio — past and present.”
Mana Up also told PBN that there is not currently a set monetary value of the services in the partnership, as the programming will be tailored to the needs of the companies.
For Alexis Akiona, the founder and designer of alohawear brand Lexbreezy Hawaii, now is a time of growth for her company, and she said the new partnership will help her through the expansion. Akiona currently has one boutique in Kailua, and she’s gearing up to add a second location — a one-year pop-up at Ala Moana Center slated to launch in June. Lexbreezy currently has 13 employees; once the new location opens, she anticipates that she’ll need another five to seven more — including retail associates, as well as marketing professionals and manufacturers.
Previously, Akiona said she has hired workers through word-of-mouth, social media, and job sites like Indeed. But she admits finding quality workers has been a struggle in the past.
“With [the expansion] comes challenges in hiring,” she told PBN. “That’s one of our biggest challenges being a small local business — not only hiring, but retaining our employees, HR needs, all that back-end work.”
Akiona said she is “excited and grateful” that, through the partnership, she will have support with hiring and recruitment, as well as human resources needs such as payroll.
“This partnership is going to help a lot of us, I think,” she said. “It’s awesome that we have Altres and Mana Up to support our growth.”
In a statement, James said that she has seen “local businesses reach incredible success and growth” over the past few years since she and Heyd launched Mana Up.
“That means they hire more employees and start to encounter new challenges associated with bigger teams. This is where it gets really interesting and impactful for Hawaii as we look to diversify the economy and create new sources of employment,” James stated. “We’re excited about launching this program with Altres to help prepare Hawaii companies to meet new demands that come with expansion and scaling up.”