Mana Up Names 10 Companies to Ninth Cohort

June 17, 2024

Mana Up Names 10 Companies to Ninth Cohort

The latest group to join the Hawai‘i product company accelerator includes three businesses from Maui. Also: a Hawaii accelerator roundup!


Out of over 160 applications received earlier this year from across the state, ten Hawaii product companies have been accepted into Mana Up and will begin the intensive, six-week accelerator program today.

”Each company’s unique strengths and commitment to leveraging local resources are vital for Hawaii’s economic sustainability,” said Mana Up co-founder Meli James in a press release. ”We also look forward to working with three Maui entrepreneurs on their journeys as they rebuild revenue streams and create local jobs."

Mana Up was founded in 2018, and has since helped 85 Hawaii companies identify high-impact sales opportunities, streamline operations, and invest in leadership and professional development.

Last year, Mana Up says its alumni companies generated $81 million in total revenue and helped create 874 local jobs in Hawai‘i, growing at a rate of about 33% each year.

James and co-founder Brittany Heyd have previously said they want to help 100 new Hawaii product companies reach at least $10 million in annual revenue. To support this mission at the street level, Mana Up has even opened several retail stores to feature Hawaii-sourced and Hawaii-designed products from its cohort companies.

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The founders of the 10 companies will participate in weekly workshops, connect with carefully matched mentors, and preview a variety of sales channels—with “House of Mana Up” retail and online sales being just the beginning. The program will culminate in the 2024 Mana Up Showcase (see my photos from the last showcase here), a jam-packed, vibrant open marketplace with food, live music, and prizes, drawing hundreds of supporters and curious shoppers.

The showcase for Cohort 9 will be held on November 7.

ManaUp said it conducted 68 interviews to narrow down the field of potential candidates to the final set and meanwhile examined the overall applicant pool to get a snapshot of the local entrepreneurial community.

Overall, the program saw most of its applicants coming from O‘ahu (60%), followed by Hawai‘i Island (15%), Maui (18%), Kaua‘i (5%), and Moloka‘i (2%). About a quarter were bringing in more than $500,000 a year, and a little more were reporting income between that and $100,000. About half reported income below $100,000. Across all contenders, the average number of employees was fewer than three.

In the end, three Maui-based companies were selected for Cohort 9: Farm to Fudge, To Be Organics, and Waiwaolani. Mana Up noted that it also harnessed its growing reach to highlight 11 Maui small businesses at “Aloha Market NYC,” a three-day pop-up shopping event in SoHo in Manhattan held in April. ManaUp and copresenter Shopify aimed to uplift Valley Isle businesses that were persevering in the name of rebuilding in the wake of the deadly Lahaina wildfires in August 2023.

Meet Cohort 9

Alikaleo Park

An everyday kids’ active-wear company that has woven together three generations of history since 1953, providing children with colorful and funky clothing with sun protection. Each piece is intentionally oversized for longer wear between sizes. Founded by Alx and Sarah Kawakami in Honolulu, O‘ahu.

Bizia Surf & Coffee Bar

A full-service cafe and specialty surfboard retailer that builds surfboards and other products using wood from invasive albizia trees. Founded by Christine and Joey Valenti in Wahiawa, O‘ahu.

Farm to Fudge

A premium dark chocolate coconut fudge handcrafted on Maui using locally sourced and organic ingredients selected with nutrient density in mind. Founded by Janice Leilani Lafontaine in Kahului, Maui.

Hawaiʻi ʻUlu Cooperative

A farmer-owned business revitalizing ʻulu (breadfruit) and other Hawaiʻi-grown staples. Founded by Dana Shapiro in Kailua-Kona, Hawai‘i Island.

Honua Skincare

An esthetician-founded facial line combining Hawaiian botanicals and traditional healing practices with modern skincare technology to target the root causes of skin conditions, while delivering remarkable results for all skin types and ages. Founded by Kapua Browning in Honolulu, O‘ahu.

Kaua‘i Hemp Co.

Crafting premium CBD wellness products using organic Kaua‘i-grown hemp, blending multigenerational farming traditions with innovation. Founded by Judiah McRoberts & Daryl Kaneshiro in Koloa, Kaua‘i.

Kris Goto

A Honolulu-based artist who creates original artwork combining inspiration she draws from the surf, ocean, and culture in Hawai‘i with her Japanese heritage, adding a whimsical twist. Founded by Kris Goto in Honolulu, O‘ahu.

Sea Crunchies

Offers unique seasonings made with Hawai‘i-grown and harvested seaweed, naturally delicious and rich in protein, fiber and antioxidants. Founded by Jina Wye in Mililani, O‘ahu.

To Be Organics

A Maui-based company creating all-natural and hand-crafted luxury bath, body & home products in small batches using the highest quality certified organic ingredients. Founded by Karli Rose Supera-Wilson in Wailuku, Maui.


A Native Hawaiian-owned and operated brand designing comfortable clothing and accessories featuring prints inspired by native Hawaiian plants, made for everyday wear. Founded by Roselani Aiwohi on Maui.

Photos of Cohort 9 at the Mana Up office courtesy Mana Up.

What’s Up With…

  • Blue Startups: Managing Partner Chenoa Farnsworth tells me they received nearly 500 applications for Cohort 16, which will run from July 22–October 11, 2024.

  • Elemental Excelerator: Applications for Cohort 13 just closed. The program will select 15-20 climate tech companies to potentially receive $350,000 to $3 million by September.

  • FoundHer: The members of Cohort 3 were introduced in March: Hawaii Vinegar & Spice Co, Itsy Bitsy Keiki, Kaae Farm, Kai Cuisine, Kaulana Mahina, Lanai Game Packaging, and Wailua Granola Co.

  • Germinate: Fostering the tropical agrifood and aquaculture innovation ecosystem. Pre-Accelerator Cohort 1 Demo Day is this Saturday, June 8, 2024.

  • HATCH: Rolling applications open for the 2024 Crest accelerator program for aquaculture, with the first on-site workshops on Hawai‘i Island running from July 8-19, 2024.

  • NSIN Propel Hawaii: In partnership with the United States Pacific Air Forces. Information session today, applications due June 21, 2024. Runs from July 15-Oct. 31, 2024.

  • UH Venture Competition: 40 teams started, four made it to the finals last month. Top prize went to language learning student startup OmniVocab.