Business accelerator Mana Up has opened a new retail location, House of Mana Up, in the lobby of the Prince Waikiki hotel.
The shop debuted Dec. 7 and marks the fourth brick-and-mortar location for House of Mana Up. The first launched at Royal Hawaiian Center in early 2020, and two others recently opened on Hawaii Island — one at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, which is also operated by Prince Resorts Hawaii, and the other at the Mauna Loa Visitor Center.
Like the existing locations, the new store features products from Hawaii companies that have participated in Mana Up’s accelerator program, which launched in 2017 with the goal of helping Hawaii-based products scale globally and expand economic opportunities for people in Hawaii. To date, 74 companies have graduated from the program.
“This is going to be a great store and we plan to be here for many years,” Meli James, co-founder of Mana Up, told PBN at a celebration event ahead of the store’s opening earlier this month. “We have been wanting to work with the Prince Waikiki — we have done a lot of collaborations with them in Japan at their other hotels, and we’re also in the Mauna Kea Hotel, their sister property. They have been wonderful to work with, and when this space became available, we thought it would be a perfect complement to our other store in Waikiki.”
In addition to the retail locations, House of Mana Up has a virtual store, which James also noted is “doing really well.”
When asked if she thinks the demand is high enough to support two stores in the Waikiki area, she said “absolutely.”
“We always have people who are looking to purchase products [from our companies]. … We also feel that it’s a complement to creating an elevated, authentic experience for visitors — when they come here, they can learn about the stories of the different entrepreneurs,” James said. “And what better place than right in the lobby where there is so much traffic coming in and out?”
James said this location carries products from about 40 Mana Up companies. The product selection is varied, ranging from food and beauty items to clothing and art.
The store opening also marked the launch of a new collaboration between Mana Up and the Duke Kahanamoku Company, the operating entity responsible for licensing imagery the late Native Hawaiian waterman who’s known as the “father of surfing.”
Through the partnership, eight Mana Up entrepreneurs have created new products celebrating Duke Kahanamoku. The limited-edition collection features products that focus on the ocean and sustainability, including:
● Aloha Modern - “Duke 1890” microfiber towel and t-shirt
● Ambassadors With Aloha - Duke Kahanamoku x AVVA t-shirt
● Jules + Gem - “Duke Swimming” glass candle
● Little Hands Hawaii - Duke Kahanamoku reef-safe sunscreen set
● Manoa Chocolate - Hawaiian rum bar, Hawaiian coffee bar, Hawaiian sea salt bar
● Meli Wraps - “Duke 1890” variety pack
● Tag Aloha Co. - Duke Kahanamoku beach tote
● Ua Body, men’s travel kit
Ten percent of proceeds from the collection will go toward the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation, which supports students and teams in sports including swimming, surfing, canoe paddling, water polo and volleyball, and Na Kama Kai, a nonprofit that runs ocean safety and conservation awareness programs for keiki.
Malia Ka‘aihue, the founder of ocean lifestyle company Aloha Modern, said she’s “excited” to be a part of the collaboration.
“[Duke] represents ocean culture — he is the man who brought surfing to the world, so it’s just an incredible privilege to get to be a part of his legacy,” Ka‘aihue told PBN at the House of Mana Up launch party.
Ka‘aihue also founded Na Kama Kai alongside her husband, Duane DeSoto, who also plays Duke Kahanamoku in the recent "Waterman" film about the life and legacy of the Olympic athlete.
“Mana Up is all about uplifting local companies, and I think it’s beautiful that they are also pairing that with Duke’s wonderful story. He is one of our heroes that we don’t highlight enough,” DeSoto said.
The collaboration, he feels, is a way to share Kahanamoku’s story with a wider audience.
“This is really a pathway for us all to be guided by what he did,” DeSoto said. “He not only shared surfing with the world, but he also shared aloha and what it is to be an amazing but humble athlete. … So I think it’s really cool that [the partnership] is going to help everyone get to know more about him.”
Products from the collection are available at the new Prince Waikiki store, as well as Mana Up's other retail locations and online.
For the businesses with a presence at House of Mana Up, they say it’s a way to continue to expand their brands.
As Blaine Kusler of Hawaii Island skincare brand Ua Body put it, it will “help showcase [our] products to people within the Islands, but also to the world.”
That type of exposure, he said, is one of the aspects of going through Mana Up that he found most valuable.
“We’ve gotten exposure that we would have never had otherwise,” noted Kusler, who runs the business alongside wife Leala Humbert.
Another benefit of participating in the accelerator, he said, has been that “it has helped us build connections with the entrepreneurial community in Hawaii.”
“I can’t tell you how powerful it is to be around people going through the same experience as you who are trying to achieve the same thing,” he said.
Ka‘aihue echoed that sentiment.
“It really helped us build our network of other businesses and other entrepreneurs,” she said. “Being together with other entrepreneurs is something really unique. You have different growing pains and different successes, so being able to share all your wins and losses and getting feedback as you’re moving and growing is so valuable, and it’s not something you could duplicate on your own.”