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Molokai Gets To Business

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Nearly 30 young, future and seasoned entrepreneurs spent the day learning ways to do business from industry experts at the Molokai Business Conference (MBC) last Wednesday.

“This idea was born right here on Molokai by Jennifer [Hawkins],” said Teena Rasmussen, director of the Maui County Office of Economic Development (OED). “It was her desire to put on a business conference for Molokai and to bring all kinds of resource people in and from around the state to come in and provide training for the Molokai people.”

Hawkins, the Small Business Specialist at the Kuha`o Business Center (KBC), worked alongside Rasmussen and the OED, MEO Business Development Center and UH Maui College, Molokai (UHMCM) to offer a full line-up of business resources for Molokai entrepreneurs. The conference was funded by a county OED grant to assist small businesses on Molokai.  The first annual “Taking Care of Business Molokai Style”conference allowed Hawaii business leaders to share insights on starting a business, writing a business plan and more.

“This conference was important because it was planned to meet business needs identified by Molokai business owners and entrepreneurs,” Hawkins said, via email. “The 2014 event focused on starting a business and helping existing businesses maintain compliance. We tried to bring in representatives from agencies who have not been on Molokai in a while and those that have services that could benefit our island.”

Throughout the day, attendees rotated through 45-minute sessions with five different workshops at UHMCM.

Karen Arakawa, the manager of the Maui County Business Resource Center, shared advice on getting innovative ideas off the ground in Maui County. She said it’s important for people to know there are entrepreneurial assistance organizations that offer support to small or new businesses.

Arakawa said entrepreneurs should develop a preliminary financing strategy to finance their business and allocate additional funds for emergencies.

Gene Pike, owner of the soon-to-be COTIGA  – Cash Only, Tax Included, Gratuities Accepted — food truck on Molokai, said unpredictable financial constraints can discourage entrepreneurs.

“A lot of times people try to start a business and they’re undercapitalized,” Pike said. “Between the delays in the permitting process and not having enough money to really start their own business they give up. It kind of destroys the entrepreneurial spirit.”

Nevertheless, Pike said he is hoping to open COTIGA to the public soon, depending on the speed of the permitting process through Maui County.

“There were workshops that I was interested in today and I wanted to make contacts with people from Maui that would hopefully be able to help me with the permitting process,” Pike continued. “I would have been able to avoid so many delays if I had this information in the forefront.”

Registering a business or business name was also a hot topic during the conference.

Jane Uyehara, head of the Business Action Center (BAC), a Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) program, discussed business registration, special licenses and state taxes.

“We help people start their businesses,” Uyehara said. “The BAC can help do all of the filings that are associated with business registration and getting tax licenses that you might need. We’re known as the one stop shop for starting a business in Hawaii.”

Uyeharas said entrepreneur can search registered business names on the DCCA business registration website before filing their own.

To close out the day, participants relocated to Kulana `Oiwi for a community wide “Sharing the Aloha Community Outreach Event” by Hawaii Energy. The event kicked off with local entertainment, door prizes and dinner, followed by a presentation by Helen Wai, financial literacy consultant and energy efficiency trainer.

The KBC will continue to offer quality workshops and partner with other Molokai businesses and agencies to reach a broader audience. According to Hawkins, the KBC’s next projects include the County of Maui Mayor’s OED grant announcement in June and the first-ever Made in Maui County Festival in November. The business center hopes to continue offering workshops on an annual basis and to make this conference an annual event.

“I’m very impressed. The caliber of the workshops were great,” Rasmussen said. “We’re very proud to roll a program like this out and I’m really looking forward to it being an annual event.”

 Submit suggestions to share for future workshops or speakers by calling the Kuha`o Business Center at 553-8100 or email Jennifer at jennifer.hawkins@co.maui.hi.us

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