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Small Business Boost

By Jack Kiyonaga, Editor 

Photo courtesy of Kanoe Davis.

Running a small business on Molokai can be challenging – but a business training program has given entrepreneurs a boost to excel. Twelve Molokai residents recently proved they have what it takes, graduating from the Pulauhala program on Oct. 25. 

This first cohort of the Pulauhala program, run by Ho’aka Mana Native Hawaiian Organization, completed 14 workshops as part of their year-long class. 

Pulauhala is an accelerator program whereby participants develop the concepts, brands and logistics behind their business ideas. Graduates from the program ranged from established companies to people just starting out with an idea. Part of the Pulauhala program included taking concrete steps like registering a business name with the Dept. of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, and learning about the logistics of taxes and filing. 

Pulauhala fellows also worked their way to off-island events like Merrie Monarch and the upcoming Made in Maui County Festival. 

Crucial to success in business, explained Kanoe Davis executive director of Ho’aka Mana and CEO of PoMahina Designs, is developing an authentic sense of self. 

“We’re here to uplift and share mana’o. It first starts with the mo’olelo, it first starts with who you are,” said Davis in a post on social media. “It’s about finding the inspiration and inner motivation to keep going.” 

As part of the graduation, fellows participated in a three-minute “elevator pitch” competition in front of a panel of judges. 

The winner of this year’s competition was Sharlah Gloor, with her company Spencer Baby. 

The business cohort wasn’t just an opportunity to sharpen ideas, but also gave local entrepreneurs the opportunity to connect with each other. 

“When I started my business, I didn’t have the help, the mentors,” said Davis. She hoped that Pulauhala would enable a new generation of entrepreneurs to succeed together. 

“They found community within themselves,” said Davis. “We are here to inspire each other and here to support each other…In Molokai we don’t have to compete [against each other].” 

Running a small business on Molokai has unique challenges, but also distinct advantages, explained Davis. 

“We have to be very creative,” she explained, because there aren’t a lot of resources. The key, according to Davis, is communicating and being honest with the customer. 

Ho’aka Mana’s goal is to help 100 Molokai small businesses get started. The 2024 Pulauhala cohort will begin in January, preceded by a meet and greet in December. Molokai community members interested in joining can check out Ho’aka Mana on instagram @hoakamana or their website at hoakamana.org.

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