On Saturday, Maui County culminated its largest products show, the 5th annual Made in Maui County Festival (MIMCF), on Nov. 2-3, 2018 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. According to the event’s presenters the County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development and Maui Chamber of Commerce, over 10,000 residents and visitors and nearly 400 wholesale buyers/distributors attended this major event which featured over 140 vendors from Maui, Molokai and Lanai offering hundreds of locally made products.
“I am continually inspired by the hard work and creativity of our locally made product vendors,” said Teena Rasmussen, Director of the County of Maui Office of Economic Development. “It has been a tremendous honor to shepherd this festival from a vision to where we are today in our fifth year. This festival is the best investment the County of Maui could possibly make to support the entrepreneurial eco-system that we have nurtured in this community.”
This annual festival is the most sought-after products show in Maui County offering a springboard for local companies to take their business to the next level by being able to unveil new products, meet with prospective wholesalers and connect with new customers.
Since the first MIMCF was held in 2014, this annual event has attracted over 50,500 residents and visitors in attendance, with participating vendors reporting over $2 million in total product sales.
Wayne Wong, Hawaii Small Business Development Center Network Center’s Director on Maui, who advises entrepreneurs for business success shared, “What this festival offers to its vendors is real world experience where they have the opportunity to utilize the best practices they only heard about to this point. It’s not unlike a marathon where they train in advance, except now, here’s the actual event that they’ve been training for. The festival becomes the actual opportunity to implement their new skills in retailing, merchandising, marketing, production and customer service. In this ‘race’ everyone is a winner having gone through this festival experience.”
This year, the festival added another element to encourage local entrepreneurship – the first-ever MIMCF Best New Food Product Contest sponsored by Minit Stop. The contest, which was open to participating vendors who have a packaged product; recognized distinguished achievement in the introduction, development, and marketing of new food products. This year’s winner, Michelle Valentin of Maui Raw, will the opportunity to have her Cultured Macadamia Spread Chimichurri Flavor featured and promoted in eight Minit Stop Stores on Maui, as well as exposure in Pukalani Superette and Mana Foods.
The event also recognized this year’s Mayor’s Booth Contest winners. HI Spice took top honors as “Best in Show.” Winners in the Tent Division were Grandpa Joe’s Candy Company (1st Place), Awl Wild (2nd Place), Maui Honey Bee Sanctuary (3rd Place). In the Table Division, winners were Mele Ukulele (1st Place), Sparrow Seas (2nd Place), and Kanilehua (3rd Place).
Our mission is to help small business and we enjoy sharing the tremendous talent, creativity and high quality products of Maui, Molokai and Lanai. In addition to creating opportunities to help companies grow and expand, we and our team of business developers involved also help them connect with needed information and resources. Through the festival, we are seeing people follow their passion, create new jobs, and expand in ways they never thought possible,” said Pamela Tumpap, President of the Maui Chamber of Commerce. “Ultimately, their success will strengthen Maui County’s brand, lure and reputation.”
Leah Santos, owner of all I see is ART, shared “I really love this event! I started my business in April as an online store so this is the first time I’m actually showing my products at a major event. It’s been great talking with customers and hearing their feedback about my laser cut, engraved wood jewelry.”
Chad Miller, owner of Grandpa Joe’s Candy Company commented, “Our biggest focus coming into this event was to grow our business, to get more accounts, and also meet larger box stores. We can spend countless hours meeting all these people to get their feedback and sell our products, but with this festival, people are coming to us.”
As for future entrepreneurs, the festival is also helping to inspire the next generation of business owners and leaders on Molokai. For the past two years, the MIMCF internship program has paired Molokai High School (MHS) students with local businesses. It’s a win-win situation where business owners receive free labor and youth get a taste of what it takes to run a business. The interns also get to travel to Maui to assist their mentors during the festival. This year, 11 interns participated.
“This Molokai internship program encourages students to learn about themselves, they learn their strengths, they learn their weaknesses, and are exposed to experiences that help prepare them for life as an adult,” said Kai Ward, MHS teacher. “Most importantly, they are surrounded by positive role models that influence their personal growth.”
According to Tania Kaholoa`a, owner of Kainanea, “This festival internship program is an awesome investment! There’s so much one needs to learn to run a business and it’s great that these wonderful youth are getting a terrific head start!”
“The Made in Maui County Festival is the biggest event for entrepreneurs in Maui County,” said Miller. “And, it’s so interconnected with everyone from the County’s Office of Economic Development, the Maui Chamber of Commerce, Maui Economic Development Board, Maui Food Technology Center, Maui Food Innovation Center, and more working together to provide a support system, so small business like ours have the tools we need to succeed. And, how great is that!”
The festival was presented by the County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development and the Maui Chamber of Commerce. Event sponsors were: Hawaiian Airlines; Pasha Hawaii; Alaska Airlines; Minit Stop; HAWAI‘I Magazine; KAOI Radio Group; The Maui News; Maui No Ka Oi Magazine; Pacific Media Group; Paradise Television Network; Maui Visitors Bureau; American Savings Bank; HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union; HHawaii Media; Maui Printing Company; Na Koa Brand; Bank of Hawaii; Central Pacific Bank; First Hawaiian Bank; Matson; Maui Electric Company; Maui Hotel & Lodging Association; Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center; and the State of Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT).