No monkeying around here

LIHUE — Aletha Thomas, owner of Monkeypod Jams, was surprised when she was notified she was awarded a $20,000 grant from Eileen Fisher, a woman’s clothing firm based in New York City.

How does a woman who makes jams from locally produced fruit and products tie in with an East Coast company that produces women’s fashion?

Thomas qualified for the “Eileen Fisher Women Owned Business Grant” because she is a woman who started and built the thriving jam business on Kauai.

“This grant is actually an incredible honor,” Thomas said. “It has already exposed us to so many opportunities.”

More than 1,000 businesses applied for the grant, and of that, only six were selected for $20,000 grants.

Cheryl Campbell, Eileen Fisher business grant facilitator, said they are always interested in what women entrepreneurs are thinking about.

“The credit market is still tight for small businesses, even as the economy rebounds,” Campbell said. “In this economy, we want to continue to inspire women to pursue new opportunities and creative solutions that will move their businesses forward in a sustainable way.”

Thomas, who started her Monkeypod Jam business while a substitute teacher, said she has always wanted to expand her business to include seasonal stock, such as the Lilikoi Curd.

“But we could never afford to buy the bottles,” Thomas said. “Now, we will use the grant to get packaging materials which include jars, labels and shipping boxes.”

She said Frank Ranger of Oihana Grant Writers alerted her to the grant opportunity.

“After I wrote the grant, he edited it and submitted it on behalf of Monkeypod Jams,” she said.

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