Starting a business is one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences in the journey of any entrepreneur. It is often accompanied by fears and failures. A lot of work, time, and money is invested into a dream that is fueled by a passion to share one’s gifts and talents with friends and family, the community, and possibly the world through the power of e-commerce.
In 2020, many entrepreneur’s dreams were shattered due to COVID-19, which impacted local small businesses across the state. Some businesses shut down while others struggled to navigate new norms, forcing small businesses to innovate and pivot to keep businesses afloat.
“INPEACE helped us gain knowledge in running a business, helping us with events and connection with our community. Without them, we don’t know where we would be.”– Akau Boards
INPEACE’s Ho‘oulu Waiwai program had to innovate and pivot the way it supported small businesses in the community as well. The program shifted to providing support through online services which consisted of one-on-one coaching and workshops. The program staff connected with a variety of other agencies and programs to network and collaborate in order to expand services and provide support to businesses throughout the pandemic.
In 2021, in collaboration with the Hawai‘i Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) and Innovate Hawaiʿi, INPEACE supported four Native Hawaiian business owners to participate in the Made in Hawaiʿi Festival, from November 11 – 14. Akau Boards, Leilani Heritage, LEIRA Organics, and Kākou Collective received support services that helped them get accepted into the Made in Hawaiʿi Festival and gain amazing experience by participating for their first time in this premier event.
These four businesses received the following support over the 2 months leading up to the Made in Hawaiʿi Festival (MIHF):
- Weekly peer networking check-ins through the Business Hui, starting in October, to help businesses prepare to market their product.
- Monthly one-on-one coaching with an expert mentor, including a space to co-create a personalized action plan for each business consisting of goal setting and the steps to achieve them.
- Peer networking through business huis, focused on preparing for MIHF itself.
- Financial support to offset MIHF fees.
The MIHF team implemented safety measures that provided a safe space for businesses to expand their visibility and connect with customers who have supported and done purchases online over the past 18 months. Collectively, the businesses generated over $50,000 in sales over the span of this amazing 4-day event. The four businesses all reported that their experience at MIHF was a huge success. Among the feedback INPEACE received were that businesses had to adjust for larger-scale production, packaging, marketing, display set up, networking, and most importantly engaging with the community.