October 15, 2021

Where Hawaii Shines

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 and venture fund for Hawaiʻi-based products growing to markets globally, with the mission to increase economic opportunity and jobs for the people of Hawaiʻi. To date, 63 local companies have graduated from the six-month accelerator program that provides expansion opportunities and helps solve business challenges.  In 2020, Mana Up’s portfolio had an average of $923,290 in annual revenue and an average annual growth rate of 65%. House of Mana Up is the company’s retail initiative including an online shop, corporate gifting and a brick-and-mortar location at Royal Hawaiian Center in Waikīkī, highlighting products and entrepreneurs who have participated in the accelerator. 

Mana Up is supported by Kamehameha Schools, DFS Hawai‘i, Castle & Cooke Hawai‘i, Hawaiian Airlines, American Savings Bank, Ulupono Initiative, Dole Plantation, 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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