Molokai Vendors Take Maui Trade Show by Storm
The owners of 12 Molokai businesses came home from Maui earlier this month with new customers, sales leads, county-wide fans and a great experience. They attended the first-ever Made in Maui County Festival, an event that showcased locally made products from more than 130 vendors at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center.
The positive response to the festival astounded everyone.
Jennifer Hawkins, small business advocate at Molokai’s Kuha`o Business Center, said about 8,000 attendees were anticipated at the event. Yet despite pouring rain throughout the day, more than 9,000 people came. Molokai vendors occupied their own area at the show, marked by green flags, and Hawkins said officials were “in awe” of their presentations and the effort that was put into transporting and showcasing the products.
“We had some of the best displays at the show,” she said. “Almost everyone came back with at least one new account … and leads to follow up on.”
Kanemitsu Bakery’s booth was sold out by 2 p.m., and other Molokai vendors were also challenged to keep their products stocked.
Jamie Ronzello of Barking Deer Farm, who marketed her Spiced Coffee dry rubs and Hibiscus Cooler Tea at the festival, said she almost sold out of her products. She said she secured four wholesale accounts, including the gift shop at the Maui Ocean Center.
“Everyone was so excited to see a contingency from Molokai,” she said. “I was really proud to be one of the 12 vendors from here! It really felt like a strong, cohesive family. True to style, all the Molokai vendors hui-ed up and helped each other in whatever fashion was needed.”
“It was great because what you saw was a community of business owners from Molokai pull together [to make it happen],” she said.
Hawkins said each of the 12 businesses paid for their booth but received a stipend from the county to assist with transportation and other expenses, and the Marriot hotel also helped out Molokai by offering them a deal on their two-night stay, Hawkins said.
“Everyone wants product from Molokai but it’s hard for Molokai to get their product off-island,” explained Hawkins, adding that the Made in Maui County Festival was an opportunity for the county to assist them in that effort.
Patty McCartney of Pualani O Molokai highlighted her Molokai-grown vanilla bean products. She said she made some wholesale connections at the show and two weeks later, has already filled orders.
“Just to have people come by … and share my passion with people over and over … was great,” she said. “I’ve been working up to do something larger than just Saturday market. … This was a jump into the water. It was saying, ‘I can participate at that level.’”
Hawkins said for many Molokai vendors, the Made in Maui County Festival was just what they needed to push them to the next step of their business.
“For me as a business specialist, we need more jobs, we need more revenue generated to be spent here in our community,” said Hawkins. “So, without changing the infrastructure of our community, the one thing we can do is look at e-commerce. In order to meet qualifications of the show, you needed to have some type of social media or web presence.”
And for some, she said, that’s what it takes to become successful.
For many Molokai participants, they said it was the support they received that made the event possible. Whether it was Hawkins, fellow community members or family and friends that helped man the booths, local vendors are left filled with gratitude.
“I could not have done it without the support of so many people here in the community,” said Ronzello, whose mother also assisted with her increasing inventory prior to the event.
Lyndon Dela Cruz, owner of Lanakila Designs, a graphic design company that offers customized decals, said in a county press release that the show gave him confidence in his two-year-old business. He was assisted at the event by his sister, Sweet McKee.
“This is his passion. He’s been an artist since he was little,” she said in the release. “It’s awesome to see him go like this.”
The county event was patterned after the annual Made in Hawaii Festival on Oahu. Organizers said the Maui County version was so successful that they’re already planning for a repeat next year. Hawkins said she hopes to see even more Molokai businesses to attend.
And for those just starting out or growing their business, Hawkins has words of wisdom.
“It’s not all sunshine, there are ups and down, but the main thing is to set a goal, stick with it, and … don’t stray away,” she said. “Do something you love, and love something that you do and realize that when it goes from a hobby to a business, it will change, and you have to love it enough to get through that change.”
Molokai Vendors at Made in Maui County Festival
Barking Deer Farm (Jamie Ronzello): Spiced coffee rub, sweet n’ spicy coffee rub, and hibiscus cooler tea.
Kalapaki Girl Dezigns (Suzette/Ernest Kahana and Amber Andrade): One-of-a-kind vintage fabric apparel and accessories.
Kanemitsu’s Bakery (George Kanemitsu): Locally made breads and other baked goods.
Kealopiko Inc. (Ane Bakutis, Hina Kneubuhl, and Jamie Makasobe): Aloha apparel and accessories.
Keaohulu (Kahulu Peltier-Yaw): Kahili, Kahili hair picks, pan covers, table covers, and wallets.
Kupu A`e Molokai (Kalae Tangonan, Mikiala Pescaia, and Leimana Ritte-Camara): Batik silk scarves, wraps, tops, and dresses.
Lanakila Designs (Lyndon Dela Cruz): Artwork from Molokai with Polynesian tribal designs and unique fonts.
Pacifica Hawaii Fusion Corporation (Nancy Gove): Gourmet sea salt.
Pualani O Moloka`i Mana`e Grown Farm (Patty McCartney): Molokai-grown vanilla bean products and 100 percent Molokai venison doggie treats.
Rosebuds (Fina Kaauwai): Shell jewelry w/ shells handpicked on Molokai.
Something for Everybody — Na Mea Molokai (Wailani Tanaka, Maile Naehu, and Henohea Linker): Island-style apparel and accessories from head to toe.
Teas and Coffees of Hawaii (Jessie Ford and Maria Holmes): Coffee cherry tisane blends and gourmet coffees.