Three Maui food entrepreneurs recently won $5,000 in awards from an “investor pitch” graduation competition through the Maui Accelerator program of the Maui Food Innovation Center at the University of Hawaii Maui College. In order to qualify for the competition, 12 Maui-based food and farm businesses had to complete a rigorous eight week program that culminated in a “pitch” presentation to a panel of judges and community representatives.
First place winner Dawn Anderson took the honor with a pitch for her 100 percent natural B Raw Bar energy bar. Anderson began experimenting in her own kitchen to handcraft a raw energy bar with the purest ingredients based on powerful nutrition and taste. The result is a superfood bar that’s free from gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts and corn. Anderson’s B Raw Bars are handmade in Kahului, come in five flavors and can be found at more than 24 locations throughout Maui and Oahu including Whole Foods and Down to Earth.
Second place went to Waii Foods’ Cultured Macadamia Hummus. Waii Foods uses locally sourced ingredients including Waihe`e Valley macadamia nuts–the key ingredient in their Cultured Macadamia Hummus, dubbed “love in a tub” according to co-owner, Michelle Valentin. The hummus can be found at Alive and Well and you can find Valentine doling out samples of their expanding line of flavors at the Upcountry Farmer’s Market in Kula each Saturday from 7-10:30am.
Third place winner, “Maui Cookie Lady” Mitzi Toro, started her journey developing uniquely flavored cookies as a fundraiser in her kitchen. For the last three years, Mitzi has been selling her cookies throughout Hawaii. The training and support programs have enabled her company to grow from a part-time passion to an enterprise employing several employees enabling Mitzi to manage strategy and operations full-time. These cookies use local mango, lilikoi, coconut, roasted macadamia nuts, guava, raw Maui sugar, Kona coffee and Hawaiian sea salt from the island of Molokai. She also uses Sammy Hagar’s Maui Distilled Macadamia Nut Rum, Paniolo Brown Sugar Whiskey, Maui Brewing Company Coconut Porter and Lahainatown Brown Ale.
“Supporting and investing in Maui’s talented entrepreneurs is an effective way to help develop the local economy,” says Wayne Wong, Maui Center Director of the Hawaii Small Business Development Center Network. “The Food Innovation Center and this Maui Accelerator Program are exciting in providing hard-to-find expertise and resource development in the food producer sector. It is my pleasure to participate as a community resource partner to provide emerging entrepreneurs with the business tools and frameworks necessary to improve productivity, gain financial efficiency and increase revenue growth. This crucial assistance to success in the commercial marketplace eventually creates local jobs.”
Photo courtesy B Raw Bar Google+ page