LIHUE — A Kauai bakery business is among 11 companies statewide taking part in a new accelerator program designed to help companies build sustainable profit centers and see where exporting fits with their goals.
Papalua Island LLC operates both the Ko Bakery and Hula Baby companies to create certified Kauai-made baked goods such as tropical biscotti, granola, cakes, cookies, scones and brownies.
The application process for “The Business Of Exporting” program was difficult and involved a thorough exploration of management, goals and company financial information, explained Papalua Island CEO Shane Wise. He did not hold his breath waiting for the phone to ring.
So when the Hawaii Pacific Export Council announced Papalua Island was among the companies selected for the program, he was surprised.
“I was actually pretty shocked,” Wise admitted.
Participants commit to a nine-month program, requiring 100 hours of coursework and participation in five large group training seminars — which are open to the public for a fee — and five smaller focus groups.
Participating businesses reap an estimated $150,000 worth of consulting services and coursework. The program helps each applicant develop a prospectus that can help the business gain access to capital loans or investment. Each participating company also receives a $1,600 grant to be applied toward individualized company export objectives. The program concludes in May 2015, which is also International Trade Month.
Wise said his role in the company is with sales and marketing — not as a designer, but as the person who looks for business opportunities.
“We had merged the two companies and that was the impetus for involving myself with this,” Wise said. “I felt we were in a stable position and had enough brand recognition and other things to proceed. I was motivated to participate because I see lot of potential for our business off-island.”
Michael Sacharski, chairman of the Hawaii Pacific Export Council in Honolulu, flew over to meet with Wise on Friday.
Sacharski said program participants included a “broad brush” of 11 experienced and visionary companies.
The eight Oahu companies selected include Bubble Shack, which makes Hawaiian candles and soaps; Beyond Organics, which makes medical lotions; Dressed’n-case, a women’s apparel maker; Global Bio Sciences, a toxic soil and water remediation company; Haute Confectionery Boutique, a baker of chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookies; Hokulani Bakery, a baker of brownies and tea cakes; Oils of Aloha, which makes cosmetic and pharmaceutical products from kukui and macadamia nut oil; and Sky Dreams, a travel accessories manufacturer.
The program is open to all Hawaii-based companies.
“We did not use geography as a determent,” he said. “It turned out that we have a nice distribution, everything from cookies to toxic soil and water remediation.”
The most experienced participant is Oils of Aloha, which has been in business for more than 35 years and employs as many as 50 workers at any given time, he said. Other companies have as few as three or four people, but have great opportunities for growth.
There are also companies that re-made themselves when they saw that their initial path did not go as far as they wanted. All of the companies show success in one way or another, Sacharski explained: They have developed a product or achieved a certain level of business activity to indicate traction and an ability to progress, or they have a promising product in various stages of development.
“The other type of success are the companies that have shown a tenacity to hang in there,” Sacharski said. “Others show a track record of success or resiliency. The other is the potential for growth.”
The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, partnered with the program to help increase the $8.35 billion already contributed to the state economy through exports from Hawaii businesses.