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Made in Maui County Festival Draws Thousands

This week’s Fourth Annual Made in Maui County Festival held November 3 and 4 drew thousands of visitors and residents to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center reaffirming once again that Maui County is no ka oi (the best) when it comes to locally made products.

Event presenters, the County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development (OED) and the Maui Chamber of Commerce, reported another great year with a total of over 10,000 attendees over the two-day event. The Buyers Preview was one of the highlights of the festival with over 550 registered wholesale buyers and distributors across the state and as far away as Canada, which was a 65 percent increase over last year’s Buyers Preview attendance.

Those who attended enjoyed shopping over 140 product vendors from the islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai offering hundreds of locally made products, island cuisine from 16 Maui food trucks, product demos, fashion shows and lots of aloha for Maui Nui.

“We’re thrilled with the impact this festival has had over the years,” said Pamela Tumpap, President of the Maui Chamber of Commerce. “Not only has this annual event become the most sought-after products show but it offers 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.  It’s also a showcase of the county’s entrepreneurial spirit and a representation of the diverse microcosm of Maui Nui’s niche manufacturing industry.”

Vital to vendors’ success and the event’s overall economic impact is the “Buyers Preview,” a B2B event held on the festival’s first day.

According to Teena Rasmussen, Director of the County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, “Establishing relationships with wholesale buyers and distributors through the Buyers Preview is taking Maui County’s businesses to new heights and to markets with both domestic and international export potential. We’ve already seen some of our festival vendors transition from hobby businesses to full-fledged manufacturing, with more and more jobs created each year.”

“The Made in Maui County Festival offers a great venue and it’s really helped boost our business,” said Jeff Caldwell from Hula Cookies. “The Buyers Preview in particular is a fantastic event! We’ve received lots of interest from major wholesale buyers in our cookie mixes and other products that we offer. Right now, we’re more of a boutique manufacturing company, but we’re building our business to expand in the near future.”

“This is the first time I’ve participated in this festival and I just love it,” said Maureen Bacon of Blue Hawaii Jewelry. “This event has such a positive energy. The whole festival team is so dedicated and wonderful to work with and the opportunities that have been presented to every single vendor here is just incredible.”

“The Made in Maui County Festival has allowed Molokai’s entrepreneurs to grow, shine and expand in ways that we could never do completely on our own,” said Michelle Naeole of Pacifica Hawaii Salt.

“This festival has been really inspiring and I thought the Buyers Preview was great,” said Keturah Schmidt, Manager for Mill House Roasting Company. “We had some really good conversations with wholesale buyers that I hadn’t made contact with before. We’re a new business just two years old so it was an ideal opportunity to put our name out there into the community.”

“This festival keeps getting bigger and better every year,” said Shelley Pellegrino, owner of `Alohi Images Maui. “I like the fact that repeat customers continue to find me and they love it here. This year’s event included a number of new vendors that provided a wonderful variety, and yet you have vendors like me who have been doing this event for four years. So it’s awesome!”

“The festival has helped us grow as a business by providing opportunities to network with other small businesses and pushing us to wholesale beyond Molokai,” said Eloise Jackson owner of Po`oHala from Molokai.

Rebecca Woodburn-Rist, Owner of Haleakala Creamery shared, “My family has been working on our business for the last four years, slowly building our heard of goats and taste testing a lot of products. Our products are unique and people need to taste them to know how much they’re going to love them. This festival gives us an opportunity to share our products’ flavors with as many people as possible in a short amount of time.”

Shanna Kanahele from Na Koa Brand shared, “We started our business four years ago but the success we experienced during the festival’s Buyers Preview last year really made us realize we could do this. My husband and I are now working on our business full-time. In two weeks we’ll have a retail space in Queen Kaahumanu Center where we’ll be selling our Na Koa Brand apparel and accessories during the holiday season. We also plan to do large product shows outside of Maui and we’ll always want to the Made in Maui County Festival each year. This festival was really the catalyst for getting our business out there and we’re so grateful for all the people who make this event possible.”

In addition to providing a world-venue to showcase their products in November, the festival also offers a number of resources and support to participating vendors year-round. These efforts include one-on-one assistance ranging from marketing support, branding, inventory control, cost and pricing analysis, and wholesale readiness. The Mayor’s Office of Economic Development also brings together a number of valued business development partners to offer these companies a wealth of programs, grants, consulting, and workshops to further their success. This in turn, has helped increase the capacity, knowledge, and skills for these small manufacturers helping to position them for success.

A new online shopping resource called the “Made in Maui County Marketplace” also provides festival vendors with an opportunity to showcase their locally made products and to connect with prospective buyers and wholesaler buyers year-round.

“The vendors who participate in this festival love the sales they make over this two-day event, but they need sales year-round,” said Rasmussen. “Helping to support their efforts through workshops and consultations; the Made in Maui County Marketplace website; and providing opportunities to connect with wholesale buyers, distributors and new customers is what this annual festival brings to them. Our hope is that these entrepreneurs will continue to grow their businesses and thrive.”

For more information on the Made in Maui County Festival, visit the event’s official website.

Photo: According to co-owners Chap Chapman and Kristen Eggert, the festival has really been big for their business, Bow Addo, Inc., which they started 8 months ago. During the Buyers Preview, they offered wholesale for the first time for their eye-catching pet bow ties and bandanas. Courtesy photo.

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