Maui County’s third annual Made in Maui Festival drew thousands to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Nov. 4 and 5. Maui County’s “largest products show” lived up to its name, drawing more than 11,000 residents and visitors to the MACC over two days.
More than 140 vendors, including 16 companies from Molokai and one from Lanai, participated in the two-day event. In addition to a veritable showcase of Made-in-Maui-County products, the event featured a dozen food trucks, presenting a diverse selection of island cuisine on Saturday.
“Last year was our first year at Made in Maui County Festival and we were totally caught off guard,” said Kiani Yasak from `Opihi Maui. “On the first day, I got at least seven new wholesale accounts and tons of new customers…. We love this event and couldn’t wait to come back this year.”
Lyndon Dela Cruz of Lanikila Designs on Molokai said the festival helped grow her business beyond expectations. “In 2015, I participated in the Festival as a decal vendor, but thanks to the success I experienced during last year’s event I was able to expand my business,” Dela Cruz said. “Also, thanks to an awesome internship program with Molokai High School, we were fortunate to secure students interns. It’s a win-win for small businesses like myself to get additional manpower while being able to mentor our future entrepreneurs about what it takes to run a company.”
MauiGrown Coffee Company Store’s Jeff Ferguson said he thinks the festival is remarkable. “It’s a tremendous vision to support our local businesses by bringing thousands of visitors and residents and hundreds of wholesale buyers to one location,” Ferguson said. “As part of the Maui Coffee Association, we not only want to showcase our products but we want the world to know that Maui grows great coffee. And, this Festival provides us with a strong vehicle to get this word out.”
New vendors like Justin Orr of HI Spice also felt the impact of participating in the festival. “Just the shear volume of people who came was awesome, intimidating and exciting at the same time. This event was the most intense market research we’ve ever conducted so far. Being able to interact with people and get their immediate feedback on our flavors and packaging has provided us with invaluable information. It really validates what we do and that we’re heading in the right direction.”
More established businesses also noted the importance of participating in events like the Made in Maui County Festival.
Shay Smith of Hawaii Sea Spirits and Ocean Vodka that exposure is really critical as the company builds a global brand for what they have started here on Maui. “Our products are currently in 5,000 to 6,000 stores nationwide and we plan on participating in more of these types of events across the country,” said Smith.
The annual event is presented by the County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development and the Maui Chamber of Commerce. “Our local business are the backbone of our economy,” said Mayor Alan Arakawa. “This Festival is all about supporting our islands’ hard working entrepreneurs. Maui County has a wealth of incredible talent. By providing these business owners with opportunities to network with wholesale buyers and offering an amazing venue for visitors and residents to see their products – our entire community benefits from these efforts.”
For those who were not able to attend this year’s Made in Maui County Festival, you can connect with participating vendors by visiting MadeInMauiCounty.com. The online shopping resource features many of the products offered by Festival vendors. A list of participating vendors also can be found on the Made in Maui County Festival’s official website MadeInMauiCountyFestival.com.
Photo: Casey Nishikawa