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Business Conference Builds Entrepreneurs’ Toolbelt

By Catherine Cluett Pactol | Editor

Photo by Chase Normura.

From those with just a dream of a business to thriving entrepreneurs, last Wednesday’s annual Molokai Business Conference offered a learning opportunity for everyone. 

“It was a great turnout; we had business leaders, people interested in starting a business, we had people from the nonprofit sector, private and commercial sectors, we had bankers,” said Tylor Tanaka, small business specialist at Maui County’s Kuha’o Business Center on Molokai, which organized the conference.

A hybrid model brought classes both in person at the UH Maui College Molokai campus as well as virtually by Zoom for those who couldn’t be there, drawing more than 50 participants. Seventeen presenters shared topics including financial management, technology, patents and trademarks, business mentorship, resources and workforce development, and emotional wellbeing for business owners. 

“The greatest piece of information I got was attending the Intellectual Property presentation,” said first time attendee Lu Ann Faborito, who owns Fancy F LLC, a goat farm and events business in Ho’olehua. “I was able to better understand this issue as relating to my question on protecting native ideas and how.”

Intellectual Property 101 was taught by Cathleen Hutchins of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 

“I really wanted our small business owners to kind of look at that [patenting] as a next step to their business,” said Tanaka. “We do have some small businesses that have moved away from the beginning to the middle stages and might be looking around and wondering, ‘What’s next? How can I make my business grow?’ And this aspect could add value to their business.”

Patenting and trademarking increase protection and value to your company, and has the potential to bring in extra money from royalties paid to your business, Tanaka said. When applying for a loan or pitching your business, one of the top questions investors often as is, “Is it patented?”

“As a result, my business goal to get certified as women owned, Native Hawaiian, was made very clear the importance of those designations and what is available through the federal government,” said Faborito. 

Another popular presentation helped business owners find joy in their work. 

Dr. Sar Vogel shared her class, titled, “All Work and No Play? Let’s Find Pleasure and Joy in Business,” addressed how to overcome getting stuck in the drudgery and monotony often found in your job. 

“Sometimes you get so robotic about things that you forget to find joy in your workplace,” said Tanaka. 

With the dream of one day having all presenters be from Molokai, Tanaka was especially excited to welcome Kanoe Davis, a born-and-raised entrepreneur whose successful fashion business, PoMahina Designs, has gained international recognition for her mana-full, Molokai-inspired patterns. 

“We had a longtime participant of the conference turn into a presenter,” said Tanaka. “For me, I was happy to have someone local and homegrown be a presenter.” 

Davis has been attending the conference since 2016, she said. Her presentation this year explored what mentorship in small business means and what it looks like. 

“I’ve come to a point where I want to help others get ahead without half of the trials I had to go through,” she said. “Although technology and mindsets shift at a drop of a dime, I like to invoke questions that draw out more confidence in oneself to be able to flow gracefully though anything and to spark thoughts that may have been missed during their building process.”

Overcoming challenges has been pivotal for Davis. 

“Having had to be the sole provider and single full-time parent, it’s been difficult but once we get to the root of who we are, we can adapt and evolve easier,” she said. “Today I have several businesses and a nonprofit. The baseline is the same throughout it all.”

The Molokai Business Conference was launched in 2014 with the goal of educating and inspiring Molokai business people to succeed. It is made possible through a partnership between Maui County’s Office of Economic Development, UH Maui College and the Molokai Chamber of Commerce, and this year Makoa Trucking served as an event sponsor. 

For more information and continuing opportunities for small businesses, contact the Kuha’o Business Center at (808) 553-8100.

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