Categorized | Business, Featured

UH-Hilo team earns honors at Shidler Business Plan Competition

From left: Shelsea Adrian, Jamielyn Martines, Maile Enriques, Team Leader Naomi Ahu, Ka Mahiai Ihi o Wailea Executive Director Kealii Lum, Professor Emmeline de Pillis, Arc of Hilo CEO Mike Gleason. (Photo courtesy UH-Hilo)


An undergraduate team from the University of Hawaii at Hilo recently captured the $1,000 Social Enterprise Award at the Shidler Business Plan Competition for their marketing plan designed for the Arc of Hilo’s new Agricultural Product Development Center (APDC).

Founded in 1954, The Arc of Hilo offers a wide range of services to people with disabilities, including employment training and job placement. Its mission is to increase independence and the quality of life among vulnerable populations.

APDC will perpetuate the agency’s mission by providing an incubator for value-added agricultural products. The Arc of Hilo has leased an 18,000-square-foot warehouse and outfitted it with recycled and donated processing equipment. The Center will also serve as a demonstration site for energy technologies developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The Livermore energy technologies – a new advance for harnessing solar energy and another for storing and retrieving electrical power – will be used to provide electricity for the facility.

The six member team selected the name “Holomua,” which means “going forward” or “progress.”

They developed an operations plan for APDC along with complete plans for a portfolio of high-potential products to be produced at the facility, including: lip balm derived from local bees wax and oils; medicinal beverages with extracts of Noni and other locally produced products; salad dressing using locally produced fruits and oils; home fragrances derived from locally grown flowers and herbs: and specialty island grown tea.

All team members agreed the experience was a valuable one.

“As business students, we constantly hear about competitive advantage for companies. This experience has given us a competitive advantage for ourselves,” team leader Naomi Ahu said.

Shelsea Adrian said the team work was exceptional. “Everyone was enthusiastic. We had a powerful message.”

Jamielyn Martines believes traveling to another island to compete against graduate level students was a great experience that brought them together. “We started off as a class full of strangers and are leaving as friends.”

Students also said the challenge of developing a portfolio of product plans within the context of the larger facility was a good test of what they had learned and taught them something about themselves.

“In business class we learn about business. But in this class we were able to take the skills we learned in areas like marketing, finance and accounting, put them to work and experience the outcome,” said Brianna Snider.

“I was personally pushed that extra mile, and because of that I learned so very much about myself and how hard I am willing to work with my classmates to achieve the same goal,” said Maile Enriques.

Kasie Rolon, the only non-business major, was pleased that her team had made a community contribution. The experience helped her develop a new interest in business, especially marketing, which has led her to consider adding a business minor or double major to her communications major.

“It’s important for business to practice social responsibility,” Rolon said. “When we do that, we change the way that people see business.”

Award sponsor Ka Mahiai Ihi o Wailea is the sole venture in the state to cultivate Hilo Maile and important native Hawaiian plants on a large scale. Mahiai Ihi was the first-place winner of the 2009 Shidler Business Plan Competition and first non-profit social entrepreneurship project to do so in the Competition’s entire history. Mahiai Ihi established the Social Enterprise award to encourage fellow nonprofits who are doing good for the community.

“As last year’s winner, we have received incredible blessings from Shidler, PACE and the university communities in Hilo and Manoa,” said Executive Director Kealii Lum. “Despite being in our infancy, we wanted to lend our support to the students who have followed us, and are delighted to know that the funds are being awarded to a Hilo-based organization committed to supporting agriculture.”

The UH Business Plan Competition began in 1999 and has grown into the State’s largest competition of its kind with the support of friends in Hawaii’s Business Community. Each team is matched with an executive coach comprised of business people who volunteer their time to help the teams shape their plans.

The UH-Hilo team was partnered with Kehau Kali, president and CEO of the Hoike Group/Hoike Enterprises, LLC.

Mike Gleason, president and CEO of the Arc of Hilo and the incoming president of the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, was so pleased with the team’s work he is encouraging both institutions to offer new internship positions to UH Hilo students in such areas as marketing, office management, event planning and newsletter writing.

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