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Winners of the program

Start-up businesses trained through were featured at an Entrepreneurs Marketplace at the Hawaiʻi Medical Assurance Association Keiki in the Kitchen family Sunday event at the Bishop Museum in October. The Entrepreneurs Marketplace, hosted by the Hawaiʻi Food and Wine Festival, gave local businesses a chance to showcase their products and innovations for an opportunity to win cash prizes.

More than 20 entrepreneurs from Hawaiʻi Ag & Culinary Alliances From Cottage Industry to Commercial Enterprise program were showcased. The ʻĀina to Mākeke class, held in partnership with Leeward CC is part of that program. ʻĀina to Mākeke utilizes business advisors, coaches and other entrepreneurs to help the cohorts bring their food products to market and build successful businesses.

Hawaiian Vinegar and Spice Co. owners
Hawaiian Vinegar & Spice Co. owners, Brandon and Poni Askew

Two local small businesses, Hawaiian Vinegar & Spice Company and Hawaiis Würst, were awarded the grand prize of $10,000 and $5,000, respectively.

Those businesses, along with The Hōʻiʻō Guy and Mahina Mea, participated in a pitch fest (similar to “Shark Tank”) for the opportunity to win cash prizes. Entrants were judged by industry experts from Chef Zone and the Hawaiʻi Foodservice Alliance, and were scored on the use of locally sourced products, innovation, business model, presentation, taste and flavor.

Hawaiian Vinegar & Spice Company, located in Wahiawā, shared how this experience has impacted their business.

“Being part of the ʻĀina to Mākeke cohort opened doors to a network of passionate entrepreneurs and invaluable resources for me,” said Poni Askew, Hawaiian Vinegar & Spice Company owner. “Winning the Hawaiʻi Ag and Culinary Alliance pitch was a pivotal moment for my business, made possible by those at Leeward CC and Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, whose vision ensures that there will be a space that fosters success for businesses like mine and those to come.” Chris Bailey, manager of the Wahiawā Value-Added Product Development Center, added, “Companies like Ponis align with our mission of incubating the future of Hawaiʻis value-added product industry. We are thrilled to continue to support them, and other entrepreneurs at the center, and level up the next generation of iconic Hawaiʻi brands.”

Learn more about HawaiʻiAg & Culinary Alliances program, ʻĀina to Mākeke, and their connection to the new , which is scheduled to open to the public in spring 2024.

By Tad Saiki

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