The Maui Food Innovation Center at University of Hawaii Maui College is the recipient of the SBA Growth Accelerator Fund Competition. President Barack Obama announced the winners of the competition Aug. 4 at White House Demo Day. The competition, run by the U.S. Small Business Administration, recognizes entrepreneurship and innovation to create a diverse and inclusive small business community. Its purpose is to draw attention and funding to parts of the country where there are gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The MFIC–one of 80 nationwide recipients–will receive $50,000 to support its Maui Accelerator Program (MAP), a business start-up program targeting women and minority-owned enterprises including Native and Hawaiian led business. MFIC was one of eight recipients that were selected by a special panel of the SBA’s Office of Native American Affairs for programs that serve Native American, Native Alaskan and Native Hawaiian populations. Additional recipients of the Office of Native American Affairs Special Prizes include Launch: Alaska; The ARK Challenge; Native Entrepreneur in Residence Program; Fresh Future Farm Inc.; Pioneer Business Incubator; ONABEN; and Alaska Small Business Incubator, LLC.
The $50,000 award money will be used for the Maui Accelerator start-up program in a variety of ways; the funds will go to creating a selective process to choose participating food companies; create a team of food industry mentors; and design a website for the program. The money also will be used to develop an event which will culminate in a public pitch by the selected companies.
“The Maui Food Innovation Center is an important program that will offer both the training and facilities needed by local food entrepreneurs to build a small business,” said UHMC Chancellor Lui K. Hokoana. “We’re excited the project has been recognized nationally, and this additional award will increase learning opportunities for students.”
The Maui Accelerator Program will be developed in partnership with the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce, InnovateHawaii, Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB), MEO, Inc., and County of Maui. These organizations have been working together in the Business Development Alliance to sponsor training and events for entrepreneurs, such as the Made in Maui County Festival and MEDB’s StartUp Weekend.
“The partnership between the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce and the Maui Food Innovation Center is a natural because we share many of the same goals,” said MNHCoC President Doreen “Pua” Canto. “Mentoring the next generation of Native Hawaiian entrepreneurs will be easier with the support of the SBA Growth Accelerator Fund.”
As part of the MAP program, MFIC also will seek participation by angel investors, venture funders, public sector agencies, private foundations, and individual philanthropists to participate in–or financially contribute–to the program.
The Maui Food Innovation Center provides business and technological expertise to food and agricultural entrepreneurs throughout the State of Hawaii. A program of UH Maui College, MFIC helps farmers and food manufacturers increase profitability through the development of new value-added food products, reduces our dependence on imports, and contributes to the sustainability of island-based agriculture.
Photo courtesy of UH Maui College