Maui Accelerator Program Provides ‘Recipe for Success’

June 23, 2016, 8:47 AM HST · Updated June 23, 8:54 AM
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Dawn Anderson

Dawn Anderson

Maui food entrepreneurs Dawn Anderson and Mitzi Toro are off to share their Maui-made food products at The Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., this week, June 22 to 24.

Dawn Anderson is the owner of B Raw Bars, while Mitzi Toro runs her own Maui Cookie Lady business.

Both are graduates of the first cohort of the Maui Accelerator Program, offered by the Maui Food Innovation Center at the University of Hawai‘i Maui College.

They are among 700 entrepreneurs selected to attend the event, where they will have the opportunity to meet up with fellow entrepreneurs and investors for networking opportunities.MCL_logo-mascot

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University administrators said it has been a great year for the Maui Food Innovation Center, both launching its accelerator program, graduating its first cohorts and receiving funding of $7 million from the state legislature to create a state-of-the-art food manufacturing facility.

The center plans on future cohorts focused on farmers, chefs and restaurateurs.

GES 2016 will connect American entrepreneurs and investors with international counterparts to form lasting  relationships.

President Barack Obama will be in attendance, as well as 300 esteemed entrepreneurs, investors and other professionals from multiple sectors.

Representing the State of Hawai‘i and County of Maui, Anderson and Toro will be networking with entrepreneurs from 170 countries.

“I am a school teacher turned cookie-prenuer and now I’m attending the GES 2016!” said Toro. “The president of the United States will address us and then there is someone like me, who lives in Makawao and puts butter, flour, sugar and eggs into a bowl to make a cookie. It is pretty surreal and truly a moment in time that I believe I will be forever changed by its awesomeness.”

Anderson and Toro, along with 10 other food-business entrepreneurs, started the Maui Accelerator Program in January, the first accelerator program for food manufacturers offered by the Maui Food Innovation Center.

A second cohort graduated in May, and the college is planning future cohorts focused on farmers and chefs/restaurateurs.

The program was founded as one of the 80 national winners of the US Small Business Administration’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition, and also receives support from the County of Maui Office of Economic Development and the Hawai‘i Strategic Development Corporation’s HI Growth Initiative.

“Mitzi and Dawn exemplify the determination and resiliency required in today’s competitive food industry,” said Chris Speere, MFIC site coordinator and one of two lead instructors of MAP. “We are honored by their selection to the GES 2016 and excited that the new knowledge gained will add significant value to their businesses in addition to our entire Maui food industry community. They are the perfect ambassadors to represent our local food entrepreneurs and the Maui Food Innovation Center.”

“Weʻre excited to see our MAP graduates attending a program such as the GES 2016,” said Chancellor Lui Hokoana. “This has been a great year for the Maui Food Innovation Center, both launching its accelerator program, graduating its first cohorts and receiving funding of $7 million from the State of Hawaiʻi Legislature to create a state-of-the-art food manufacturing facility. We’re hoping the facility and its programs will help Maui transition to a new model for agriculture and local food production.”

Accelerator programs help new entrepreneurs strengthen their business and marketing skills, increasing their rate of survival and rate of growth.

For food businesses, which have food safety, labeling and manufacturing issues to contend with, these programs are even more important.

According to a study by the National Business Incubation Association, “businesses launched through a period of nurturing in business incubators fare much better, with an 80% rate of success.”

“The Maui Accelerator Program prepared us to be able to complete the lengthy entry forms for the summit by bringing mentors, coaches, guest speakers and tools that helped launch our businesses to the next level,” said Toro. “It’s a start-up dream to have all the resources in an incubator environment to grow and scale at a pace comfortable for each of us. 
I’m very thankful for this opportunity to represent Maui.”

University of Hawai’i Maui College’s Pilina building houses the UHMC Food Innovation Center. Photo courtesy of UHMC.

University of Hawai’i Maui College’s Pilina building houses the UHMC Food Innovation Center. Photo courtesy of UHMC.

MAP is one way that the Maui Food Innovation Center is hoping to “dish up” success for farmers, chefs and food entrepreneurs in the local marketplace, creating an economic win for them and the Maui community.

“2016 has been an amazing year for my business,”said Anderson. “I would never have dreamed about this opportunity back in January when I started the MAP program.”

For more information about the Maui Food Innovation Center and its training programs, go online.

UHMC is located at 310 W. Ka‘ahumanu Ave. 
in Kahului.

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