Hawai'i Business Magazine
Startup Paradise keeps growing and delighting us with creative ideas and passionate entrepreneurs.
You will learn about many of these people and projects on the following pages, but I wanted to begin this report with an overview of the local innovation economy, so I interviewed Meli James, president of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association and founder of Mana Up.
Pacific Business News
Seven of the 10 Hawaii product companies in Mana Up’s third cohort were founded and are led by women, and the majority of the companies are from the Big Island and Kauai.
Mana Up is a 12-week Hawaii-based product accelerator program that seeks to invest in local companies with $100,000 or more in annual revenue.
Kunoa Cattle Co. products take the spotlight at this special dinner, which features a Kunoa beef tartare, local beer-braised Kunoa short rib and a 20-day dry-aged Kunoa rib-eye steak, along with Bristol Bay day boat scallops, truffled ‘ahi with jalapeño and micro cilantro, and an orange Creamsicle semifreddo.
Women-led and neighbor island-based businesses dominate Mana Up’s third cohort. Seven of the 10 companies are founded and led by women, six are based on neighbor islands and one-half are from Hawaii Island.
Big Island Now
“We’re also thrilled to continue our partnership with Hawaiian Airlines to support flights for Neighbor Island companies, making their participation in Mana Up possible,” said James. “The companies come to O‘ahu weekly and Neighbor Island companies in Cohorts 1 and 2 benefitted immensely from the opportunity to expand their network during the program.”
Hawaii Business Magazine
Mana Up's third cohort of 10 local companies includes seven led by women and five based on Hawaii Island. The businesses offer a mix of consumer goods - including food, fashion and home goods - aimed at locals, tourists and the worldwide market.
Hawaii Business Magazine
Visitors are more willing than ever to venture outside of Waikiki, said Meli James, co-founder of Mana Up and president of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association. Visitors “want to learn and they actually respect the culture and this melting pot of many cultures that make up Hawaii,” James said. They know the difference between an authentic experience and a tourist trap, so tell these customers the story of your brand and why it is uniquely Hawaiian.
Hawaii News Now
HI Now host Kanoe Gibson is in the kitchen with Chef Adam Tabura, “Cutthroat Kitchen” contestant and winner of the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race” with Aloha Plate. Chef Tabura is a chef based in Hawaii and has been the executive chef for some of Hawaii’s top resorts and restaurants.
Beautifully Be. Equipped
Meet Meli James. She’s the cofounder of Mana Up, a Hawai’i-based initiative designed to build the state’s next generation of CEOs in the retail and food product industry.
Mana Up’s accelerator program supports local entrepreneurs by helping them shift their thinking about business, to go beyond being a mom-and-pop operation to become global market influencers.
Entrepreneur Meli James, co-founder of Mana Up, was recently named to the National Small Business Association (NSBA) Leadership Council. NSBA is the nation’s oldest small-business advocacy organization and operates on a staunchly nonpartisan basis. James, a recognized leader in the small business community, joins the NSBA Leadership Council along with other small business advocates from across the country to promote the interests of small business to policymakers in Washington, D.C.
Mana Artisan Botanics, a Hawaiian-based wellness brand, is expanding its product portfolio with a new CBD-inspired spa line. The line debuted at the Mana Up Holiday Showcase in November to more than 1,5000 attendees.
“The spa industry is a new market we have pursued with great success,” says Steve Sakala, cofounder and CEO of Mana Artisan Botanics. “Our Hawaiian roots, synergistic formulations, and how our products are handcrafted in small batches with local ingredients have really resonated with the wellness focus of the spa industry. Mana means ‘life force energy’ in Hawaiian, and our mission is to promote wellness by having our customers infuse themselves with nature’s mana.”
Pacific Business News
DFS Hawaii is partnering with Hawaii product accelerator Mana Up to feature products from companies that have participated in the biannual 12-week program.
The luxury travel retailer said the partnership also includes tastings and promotional events at its Waikiki location.