The fourth annual Startup Weekend Maui will kick off this Friday, May 19 at the Maui Research and Technology Park in Kihei.
For the past three years, Startup Weekend Maui has been empowering entrepreneurs by providing an opportunity to learn how to start a business from the ground up in just 54 hours. Startup Weekend draws the business community together for a variety of reasons, according to the event’s presenter, Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB). Among them, people want to learn what it takes to launch a business; they enjoy feedback and/or validation for startup ideas; and they want to connect with passionate people and driven entrepreneurs like themselves.
MEDB also said individuals participate in the weekend event to build their network of business contacts; seek support and advice from mentors; and determine if their startup idea might work with minimal risk and time.
In 2016, Danielle Travis and Molly Palmer captured first place for their startup idea “Barrier Method,” (previously called “The Original Face Guard”). Their innovative product de-stigmatizes the traditional white medical mask by making face apparel that is not only anti-microbial, but also comfortable and fashionable to wear. Since launching their idea during Startup Weekend Maui, they’ve been working on their business and are looking to launch their Kickstarter campaign in August 2017.
“Startup Weekend helped us validate our idea so that we knew we had something worth pursuing,” Travis and Palmer said. “The event actually defined a startup for us and gave us the first building blocks necessary to bring our idea to life. It helped us to look at important areas, other than the creative parts, like funding streams, costs and logistics of actually making a product from start to finish, and got us thinking about patenting. We learned about the importance and value in protecting our intellectual property as well as getting first to market. We also got to network with influential people in the community and other entrepreneurs who provided us with valuable resources and contacts.”
Third place winner of the 2015 Startup Weekend Maui, Jen Fordyce, owner of Waikapu Pickles, is on the fast track for success with her fresh, local cucumber pickles. Her products, which come in three flavors – crunchy dill garlic, sweet bread and butter, and Hawaiian chili pepper – are sold in a number of Maui stores, farmers markets and community events; they are also featured on local restaurant menus. In addition, Fordyce plans to participate in some big product shows on Oahu later this year.
“I would not even have a business if it weren’t for Startup Weekend Maui,” Fordyce said. “I went into this event with an idea and came out with the beginnings of a business plan. There were a million things I learned and among them was the importance of focusing on accurate financial projections. This is something we work on constantly because costs and sales are always moving targets. Today, we’re excited about being able to offer a healthy food product that supports local farmers and food independence for Maui.”
Shane Tajima, a software engineer who graduated from UH-Maui College and participated in the 2016 Startup Weekend Maui, said she really liked how Startup Weekend condensed so much information into just a couple of days. “There was no 35-page business plan,” Tajima said. “It was just–get together with people… and crank out a startup by the end of the weekend.”
All Startup Weekend events follow the same basic model: on Friday, anyone is welcome to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams organically form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote); and then it’s a 54-hour sprint of business model creation, programming, designing, and market validation. The weekend culminates on Sunday with presentations in front of experienced entrepreneurs and investors who offer valuable feedback.
“It’s exciting to see the impact Startup Weekend Maui has made on those who have participated in this business creation process,” said Frank De Rego Jr., Director of Business Development Projects for MEDB. “Everyone involved from MEDB’s staff and Board of Directors to the event’s Sponsors, Mentors, and Judges are really focused on inspiring our next generation of entrepreneurs.”
Photo courtesy Maui Economic Development Board