“We look at how much indigenous culture means to us as a business. Because when you have a business you have to stay completely inspired all the time – you have to have a source of inspiration and culture gives us that source.”
The auditorium at the U.S. Department of Commerce in the heart of Washington D.C. was full Tuesday morning with Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) business leaders from throughout the country, gathered for the annual AAPI Business Summit. For the first time since its inception, the summit turned its focus to a discussion of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander-owned businesses and the growing role they play in national – and global – commerce. The summit opened with a discussion of the ways that cultural traditions can inspire business at all levels.
Manaola Yap, founder of Manaola Hawaiʻi, and KS innovation collaborator was a featured speaker at the summit and shared the story of his company. Yap spoke about the ways in which his identity and core values have infused his fashion label with an advantage in the marketplace.
“It’s a never-ending source of inspiration,” said Yap. “We also must be careful though at how we use that culture and how we present our culture because we don’t want to lose it. [Our company] has been a wonderful footprint for other native businesses in finding the proper way to be righteous within ourselves within sharing the culture and the correct way – the correct messaging – to share with the world.”
Karen Dunn Kelly, undersecretary for the Department of Commerce emphasized in her keynote address that the number of businesses in the U.S. owned by Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders had increased by 45.3 percent when last measured in 2012, and she expects that the next economic survey (currently underway) will show the same kind of exciting growth.
“Akahai, lōkahi, ‘olu‘olu, ha‘aha‘a, ahonui; these are the key values that our company is built on and have helped us to grow as a business and helped us to navigate our way through commerce,” said Yap.
Yap travelled to participate at the AAPI business summit in celebration of the Year of the Hawaiian – Ke Au Hawai‘i. He and CEO Zachary Pang joined Kamehameha Schools CEO Jack Wong in Washington D.C. where Wong was honored with the prestigious Community Leadership award from the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS).
The group was honored to travel with student participants of Project Kuleana from throughout Hawaiʻi, who brought oli, mele and hula to the country’s capital to elevate awareness of Ke Au Hawai‘i on the national stage.
March 15, 2018
In an interactive session with KS staff at Kawaiaha‘o Plaza appropriately dubbed “Na‘au or Never,” Native Hawaiian fashion designer Manaola Yap implored attendees to look for the answers within.