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3rd Annual Made in Maui County Festival draws thousands, opens doors for local companies

In anticipation of this year’s shoppers, Maui Crisps produced 4,000 bags of their popular artisanal beef chips. But they still sold out eight hours into the event. Photo by Casey Nishikawa

On November 4 and 5, Maui County’s largest products show, the 3rd Annual Made in Maui County Festival, lived up to its name drawing over 11,000 of residents and visitors to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului.

Presented by the County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development and the Maui Chamber of Commerce, over 140 vendors, including 16 companies from Molokai and 1 from Lanai participated in this two-day event – a veritable showcase of Made-in-Maui-County products. In addition, 12 food trucks also presented a diverse menu of island cuisine in this year’s Food Court on Saturday.

While the Festival continues to provide a unique shopping experience, it’s the overall mission of this event that has made a real difference in the lives of many small businesses. Specifically, the Festival was created to open doors for Maui County’s entrepreneurs.

“Last year was our first year at Made in Maui County Festival and we were totally caught off guard,” said Kiani Yasak from `Opihi Maui. “On the first day, I got at least seven new wholesale accounts and tons of new customers. We do custom orders, so following the Festival we were slammed on our custom orders all the way up to Christmas. We love this event and couldn’t wait to come back this year.”

“In 2015, I participated in the Festival as a decal vendor, but thanks to the success I experienced during last year’s event I was able to expand my business,” said Lyndon Dela Cruz of Lanikila Designs on Molokai. “Recently, I made the big leap to work on my business full time. We expanded our product line – we now offer both apparel and decals, and we moved our company to a larger location. Also, thanks to an awesome internship program with Molokai High School, we were fortunate to secure students interns. It’s a win-win for small businesses like myself to get additional manpower while being able to mentor our future entrepreneurs about what it takes to run a company.”

“I think this Festival is just remarkable,” said Jeff Ferguson of MauiGrown Coffee Company Store. “It’s a tremendous vision to support our local businesses by bringing thousands of visitors and residents and hundreds of wholesale buyers to one location. As part of the Maui Coffee Association, we not only want to showcase our products but we want the world to know that Maui grows great coffee. And, this Festival provides us with a strong vehicle to get this word out.”

“The Festival has helped me gain exposure to other businesses, retailers, and allowed people to visit me in a relaxed environment,” said Shelley Pellegrino of `Alohi Images Maui. “It can be challenging to run a business especially when you’re trying to balance family life with business life. But, I love the creative outlet that this business gives me and I’m grateful for the support I’ve received from the Festival’s organizers.”

New vendors like Justin Orr of HI Spice also felt the impact of participating in the Festival. “Just the shear volume of people who came was awesome, intimidating and exciting at the same time. This event was the most intense market research we’ve ever conducted so far. Being able to interact with people and get their immediate feedback on our flavors and packaging has provided us with invaluable information. It really validates what we do and that we’re heading in the right direction.”

Even the more established businesses noted the importance of participating in events like the Made in Maui County Festival.

According to Shay Smith of Hawaii Sea Spirits and Ocean Vodka, “This exposure is really critical as we build a global brand for what we’ve started here on Maui. Our products are currently in 5,000 to 6,000 stores nationwide and we plan on participating in more of these types of events across the country. We’re excited to take the spirit of Hawaii you see here today and share it throughout our beautiful nation.”

“Our local business are the backbone of our economy,” remarked Mayor Alan Arakawa. “This Festival is all about supporting our islands’ hard working entrepreneurs. Maui County has a wealth of incredible talent. By providing these business owners with opportunities to network with wholesale buyers and offering an amazing venue for visitors and residents to see their products – our entire community benefits from these efforts.”

Those who missed this year’s Made in Maui County Festival, can still connect with participating vendors, by visiting www.MadeInMauiCounty.com. This online shopping resource features many of the products offered by Festival vendors. A list of participating vendors can also be found on the Made in Maui County Festival’s official website www.MadeInMauiCountyFestival.com.

The Made in Maui County Festival is sponsored by: Hawaiian Airlines; Pasha Hawaii; HAWAI`I Magazine; Hawaii State Department of Transportation, Kahului Airport; The Maui News; Maui No Ka Oi Magazine; The Maui Visitor Channel; Pacific Media Group; HMSA; INNOVATE Hawaii; KAOI Radio Group; Alexander & Baldwin, Inc.; American Savings Bank; Courtyard Marriott, Maui Kahului Airport; HHawaii Media; Residence Inn Maui Wailea; Central Pacific Bank; First Hawaiian Bank; Goodfellow Bros., Inc.; HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union; Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club; Matson; Maui Electric Company; Maui Hotel & Lodging Association; Maui Printing Company; State of Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism; Expeditions; Richard Kehoe CPA; RedFin; and Roberts Hawaii.

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