May 26, 2022

11 new companies accepted into Mana Up’s portfolio of 74 local companies; 28% of applicants started since the pandemic

 Honolulu – Mana Up, a local accelerator for Hawai‘i-based companies, recently announced the 11 entrepreneurs who will participate in its annual six-month program. 

 The new cohort 7 companies were selected from Mana Up’s largest pool of applicants to date. Mana Up’s selection committee reviewed 138 applications from local businesses and interviewed 57 of them.  Notably, 28% of companies that applied were started since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The following data was collected from the applications:

  • Island: O‘ahu (53%), Maui (20%), Hawai‘i Island (13%), Kaua‘i (12%), and Moloka‘i (3%)
  • Income breakdown: $500,000+ (21%), $100,000-$500,00 (43%), under $100,000 (36%)
  • Average percent of revenue generated from e-commerce: 42%, with 13% of businesses reporting that e-commerce accounted for 100% of their revenue 
  • Top areas of needed improvement: e-commerce, sales and distribution
  • Average employees: 3.2

 “The increasing number of applications shows the strength of the pipeline for Mana Up and that the industry is growing. We found that 44% of applications came from companies that have started since Mana Up launched in 2017 and have an increasing focus on e-commerce. We are happy to see this trend over the last several years and it has led us to develop additional programs for earlier stage companies, including our Hawai‘i Rising program in partnership with Build Native with Shopfiy and Power Up Your Business program in partnership with YWCA,” says Meli James, cofounder, Mana Up. 

Eleven companies were ultimately selected for cohort 7 around a few central themes. 

Environmentalism and conservation is a key focus in the cohort. Sharing the stories of Hawai‘i’s native plants and animals, these companies have found interesting and fun ways to drive education on important issues:  

  • David Shepard creates aloha wear with prints depicting native Hawaiian plants, many of them endangered. As a former conservation worker, University of Hawai‘i alumnus David Shepard started the company to bring awareness to native plants now rarely seen throughout the Islands and the need to support more conservation efforts.  
  • Founder of Advance Wildlife Education, Che Frausto, started a coloring book company highlighting endangered native wildlife to inspire kids to develop a passion for saving these animals. Advance Wildlife Education is now in eight states and over 60 retail locations, bringing awareness of conservation efforts far and wide. 
  • Alohilani Keohuloa from Pō Naturals shares the uses of native plants for medicinal applications, including healing balms and salves. 
  • Haku Maui brings celebration to Hawai‘i’s native flowers making lei using cultural knowledge and practices. 
  • Revive Glassworks’ mission is to repurpose the Island’s waste into high-end glass products. Founder Matt Laundrie started the first on-island glass recycling plant as a pilot project for a larger facility that would help alleviate some of Hawai‘i’s trash problems. Revive Glassworks partners with hotels across Maui who purchase recycling services and unique recycled glass products from the company.  

Cohort 7 also features entrepreneurs passionate about finding new and innovative ways to collaborate with local artists. LexBreezy, Surf Shack Puzzles and Tag Aloha Co. are all native Hawaiian-owned businesses with a mission to share art and stories through their fresh and playful products.

  • Founded by Alexis Akiona, LexBreezy makes fun and flirty aloha wear featuring unique prints. Mentored by her parents who founded Simply Sisters by Lola in Hilo, Alexis carries on the family legacy for the younger generations. 
  • Mahina Tuteur of Surf Shack Puzzles uses her platform to turn local art into puzzles for both kids and adults. As a perfect gift for locals or visitors, Surf Shack Puzzles brings visibility to Hawai‘i’s inspirational art. 
  • Tag Aloha Co., often seen through its signature line at Whole Foods, uses its designs to share the captivating culture and lifestyle of Hawai‘i. Tag Aloha Co. is also Hawai‘i's first Fairtrade Certified business. 

“We’re always happily surprised by the quality and ambition that each cohort brings to Mana Up. This cohort highlights sustainability, the environment and culture through their products, hitting on global trends that put Hawai‘i at the forefront. We couldn’t be more excited to work with this year’s impressive group of entrepreneurs, and be part of their journeys as they grow to global markets,” says Brittany Heyd, cofounder of Mana Up. 

Here are the 11 companies that make up Cohort 7:  

  1. Advance Wildlife Education creates a line of educational products including coloring books for keiki featuring hand-drawn artwork and clothing to promote Hawai‘i’s endangered wildlife, outreach and information. Founded by Che Katsu Frausto from Pa‘ia, Maui.
  2. ava + oliver designs safe, modern baby lifestyle products made with 100% non-toxic food-grade silicone and vegan leather that is free of phthalates and cruelty-free. Founded by Emma Wo from Honolulu, O‘ahu.
  3. David Shepard Hawai‘i is an aloha wear design company featuring hand-drawn artistic representations of native Hawaiian plants with a special emphasis on conservation. Founded by David Shepard from Honolulu, O‘ahu.
  4. Haku Maui specializes in traditional Hawaiian lei and lei making workshops at their shop on Maui. Founded by Britney Texeira from Makawao, Maui.
  5. Kaua‘i Sweet Shoppe is a family-owned and operated small batch confectionery manufacturer specializing in handcrafted locally made caramels and chocolates highlighting local flavors. Founded by Chloe Blake & Kalei Marston from Lihue, Kaua‘i.
  6. Lexbreezy Hawai‘i designs aloha wear and resort wear with a modern twist, reflecting local culture. Founded by Alexis Akiona from Kailua, O‘ahu.
  7. Mālama Mushrooms is a family-owned functional food company creating everyday wellness products using superfood mushrooms. Founded by Benjamin Lillibridge from Kona, Hawai‘i Island.
  8. Pō Naturals combines ancient Hawaiian medicinals with holistic practices to handcraft herbal body care products from healing balms to salves. Founded by Alohilani Keohuloa from Kohala, Hawai‘i Island.
  9. Revive Glassworks turns repurposed glass bottles into extraordinary products by using an elaborate process with advanced machinery and craftsmanship. Founded by Matt Laundrie in Kahului, Maui.
  10. Surf Shack Puzzles is a wahine-owned, ‘ohana-operated puzzle company highlighting Hawai‘i-inspired artwork designed by female artists including Punky Aloha Studio and Aloha de Mele. Founded by Mahina Tuteur from Kahalu‘u, O‘ahu.
  11. Tag Aloha Co. is a lifestyle brand offering a growing array of locally inspired products including bags, pareos, hats and pillows. Founded by Alana Penaroza, Kainoa Penaroza and AJ White from Kailua, O‘ahu. 

Mana Up Cohort 7 officially kicks off May 31 and culminates with its annual Mana Up Showcase event on Thursday, November 3, 2022.

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, and an additional 11 companies are participating in its program this year. 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  


Courtney Liu

Communications & Marketing Manager