Molokai Highlighted at Product Festival

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Photo by Catherine Cluett Pactol

Last weekend, 16 Molokai businesses joined the county’s best crafters, artists, designers and food creators at the third annual Made in Maui County Festival in Kahului. With more than 10,000 attendees, the event offers local vendors a step up to market their products, secure wholesale deals and network with eager customers. Marked with green flags in a prime location at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, Molokai booths were an event attraction, led in popularity by Kanemitsu Bakery, which boasted a long line across the lawn.

With the largest representation of Molokai businesses in the festival’s three years, a mixture of new and veteran and vendors showcased Friendly Isle products alongside more than 140 other vendors from Maui and Lanai. New to the scene this year was Po`oHala, a business highlighting the art of Lauhala weaving owned by Mokihana Jackson; Anne Bacon’s Puko’o Shells featuring elegant shell lei; Keoki and Jennifer Johnson of Keawaike Hawaiian Jewelry showcasing hand carved opihi necklaces; and Na`ike shoyu and chili pepper sauces made by Nani Kahinu.

Repeat vendors were Barking Deer Farm, Kainanea, Kanemitsu Bakery, Kealopiko, Keaohulu, Kupu A`e, Lanakila Designs, My Leialoha, Pacifica Salt, Pualani O Molokai, Rock Salt Plum Creations and SuiKeala Native Jewelry.

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Photo by Catherine Cluett Pactol

“Most people do not realize that the goal of the festival is actually not to see how much money a vendor can make,” said Jennifer Hawkins of the Kuha`o Business Center. “The festival is designed to help a business get to the next level.”

Kahinu said her business already scored on a wholesale deal for their shoyu blend products to be marketed on Maui by the end of the year.

Sui Joao, owner of SuiKeala Native Jewelry, also had some potentially business-changing interactions.

“I got to talk to a few wholesalers here on Maui, and they were really interested,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting to do wholesale but now we might consider it.”

Her sister and business partner Christina Keala Bethke said in their second year, this time went a lot smoother after learning from the first experience.

“It’s a great opportunity for Molokai vendors,” she said.

Along with the four new businesses showcased, Molokai also contributed in another way to the event this year.

“This year we [had] an exciting new component for the Molokai Made In Maui County Festival Program,” said Hawkins. “We are piloting the Made in Maui County Festival Internship program here on Molokai through a partnership with Molokai High School and the College and Career Readiness Program.”

Six Molokai High School students had the opportunity to intern with some of the local vendors, assisting them to prepare for the festival as well as learning the ins and outs of the business. The interns also worked at the event helping set up on Friday and rotating through several jobs on Saturday, such as greeting and guiding attendees.

“It’s an experience you can’t get on Molokai,” said MHS senior Ida Pongmulee, who interned with Patty McCartney’s vanilla business, Pualani O Molokai Mana`e Grown Farm. “It feels great to direct people to the Molokai vendors, it’s great to see them out making sales. I’m really proud of all our Molokai vendors for being here… you might assume that Molokai vendors aren’t the same caliber [as Maui businesses] but they definitely are.”

Along with many product booths, the event also featured food trucks, fashion shows, product highlights, entertainment and other activities. For more information or to connect with vendors, visit MadeInMauiCounty.com.

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