Maui News

Food-Focused Entrepreneurs Sought for Business Plan Competition

November 4, 2021, 9:49 AM HST
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Richard Kodani works the fields for Mana ʻŌlena, a family-owned business that grows ʻōlena (tumeric) and ʻulu (breadfruit). Last year the business won the 2020 Mahiʻai Match-Up competition. Photo Courtesy: Kamehameha Schools

Applications now are being accepted from farmers and agriculture food producers for Mahi‘ai Match-Up, a business plan competition that provides food-focused entrepreneurs from across the pae ‘āina with an opportunity to farm agricultural land or develop a business in a commercial space.

The program is a partnership of Kamehameha Schools, the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) and The Kohala Center to strengthen Hawai‘i’s food system.

As part of the contest, CNHA’s KūHana program will provide applicants with classes and guidance on developing business plans, pitching their business plans and ongoing mentorship support, technical assistance and networking opportunities.

Interested food systems entrepreneurs can apply both through CNHA’s KūHana at www.hawaiiancouncil.org/kuhana or through Kamehameha Schools’ Mahi‘ai Match-Upat www.ksbe.edu/mahiai/mahiai_matchup/.

The competition awards include an agricultural land agreement on a Kamehameha School parcel and, for the first time this year, an agreement on a Kamehameha School commercial property within Kapālama Kai, Oʻahu. Winners also will receive start-up capital. The application deadline is Dec. 10.

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CNHA’s KūHana program is excited to open its sixth KūHana cohort with this collaboration. 

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“Our KūHana program is designed to meet businesses during their development stages and to identify the best ways to support their growth,” said CNHA Chief Executive Officer Kūhiō Lewis. “And within the cohort, the participating businesses network and support one another to work towards the collective goal of raising the lāhui.”

Top business plans from the KūHana cohort will become finalists to compete for Mahi‘ai Match-Up awards from Kamehameha Schools. The Kohala Center will utilize its expertise to coach the finalists with final business planning preparation and continued business support services beyond the program.  

This is the eighth year that Kamehameha Schools has supported agricultural and food systems business plan competitions.

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“The success of our farmers and small businesses supports the overall growth of agriculture and food industries, which are critical to a thriving community,” said Kā‘eo Duarte, vice president of Kamehameha Schools’ Community & ʻĀina Resiliency. “Our hope is that the Mahiʻai Match-Up competition will support our lāhui through the production of more healthy, accessible and ʻono food. Strengthening the businesses feeding our communities creates jobs that support our keiki and familes across Hawaiʻi.”

Mana ʻŌlena, a family-owned business which is growing ʻōlena (tumeric) and ʻulu (breadfruit), won the 2020 Mahiʻai Match-Up competition and received a $10,000 cash prize from Ulupono Initiative, waived rent for five years on Kamehameha School land in Hilo, and wrap-around business support services from The Kohala Center.

Last year, the partnership uplifted 24 food systems entrepreneurs and award $135,000 directly to businesses.

Kamehameha Schools stewards more than 181,000 acres of agricultural lands, which produce about 19 million pounds of food annually.

To learn more about Kamehameha Schools’ food systems and agricultural initiatives, visit www.ksbe.edu/mahiai.

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