October 15, 2021

Honolulu – Mana Up, a local accelerator for Hawai‘i-based consumer brands, today announced the launch of its first venture capital fund with $6.3 million in capital commitments. Led by Mana Up’s cofounders, Meli James and Brittany Heyd, the fund is dedicated exclusively to supporting the expansion of product companies headquartered in Hawai‘i.

Building on the success of the Mana Up accelerator, Mana Up Capital will provide Hawai‘i-headquartered companies with investment dollars to scale their businesses beyond Hawai‘i. In the local context of low supply of venture capital (Hawai‘i ranks 45 of 50 states in venture capital investment), Mana Up Capital will provide the much-needed funding for companies to get to the next level.  

“There has been an organic growth of hundreds of local product companies in recent years, but the funding to fuel their growth beyond Hawai‘i’s borders has been lacking. Paired with the accelerator’s mentorship resources and sales channels, this investment capital makes it possible to maximize growth opportunities and build a massively successful company from right here at home, along with the downstream benefits of jobs, community giveback, and supporting Hawai‘i’s agriculture,” says Meli James, cofounder of Mana Up. 

Mana Up Capital will invest in Seed or Series A rounds and will primarily invest in companies who have gone through the Mana Up accelerator. The first two investments are Kō Hana Rum (cohort 1) and Big Island Coffee Roasters (cohort 2). 

Kō Hana Distillers, Hawai‘i’s only farm-to-bottle rum company, recently increased its heirloom Hawaiian sugarcane farming operation and production capacity by adding 220 acres of O’ahu farmland. Cofounders, Jason Brand and Robert Dawson, will use investment dollars from Mana Up Capital to further this growth trajectory and expand mainland US distribution. The Kunia-based distillery has geared up for major growth and is projected to produce 25,000 cases this year and 75,000 cases by 2023 – an over 300% increase in locally grown and distilled rum. This will allow the O‘ahu company to increase its market share of premium spirits and export its single varietal, heirloom Hawaiian cane rums to global markets. Forty acres of the new land has been planted with cacao to meet the demand for its award-winning rum, Kokoleka.

Big Island Coffee Roasters, Hawai‘i's most awarded craft roaster specializing in the highest quality 100% Hawaiian coffees and related products, will use investment capital to further expand its farmer relations program, digital marketing, and both in-state and out-of-state distribution. Over a decade ago, the company’s founders Brandon van Damitz and Kelleigh Stewart began farming coffee in Puna on Hawai‘i Island and since then have brought international recognition to coffees sourced from across the Islands.  Big Island Coffee Roasters was also recently featured on Good Morning America and is launching a new line of single-serve, ready-to-drink Hawaiian coffees in compostable pouches this November.

About Mana Up

Mana Up is an accelerator for consumer products who are based in Hawai‘i and have the goal to expand to global markets. The accelerator hosts an annual six-month program to help product businesses scale by uncovering opportunities for growth and tackling production challenges that typically come with fast-growing revenue such as sourcing, manufacturing and shipping.  To date, Mana Up has seen a total of 63 local companies participate in its program. Through these efforts, the company aims to expand economic opportunity and grow well-paying jobs across the Islands. Mana Up also has an online shop and brick-and-mortar retail experience, House of Mana Up, located at Royal Hawaiian Center in Waikiki, which highlights products from Hawai‘i’s rising makers and artisans who have participated in the accelerator program. 

Mana Up is supported by Kamehameha Schools, DFS Hawai‘i, Castle & Cooke Hawai’i, Hawaiian Airlines, American Savings Bank, Ulupono Initiative, Dole, Kaiser Permanente Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Technology Development Corporation, Innovate Hawai‘i, UHA Health Insurance, Pineapple Tweed, Shopify, The Kahala Hotel & Resort, and Foodland.

For more information about the accelerator program,, and to shop House of Mana Up, visit  

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