More than 150 social entrepreneurs, investors, government agency reps, and philanthropists recently sat shoulder-to-shoulder at “Scaling Social Enterprise in Hawai‘i,” an event that showcased the social impact businesses like the Waipā Foundation and Hui Kū Maoli Ola have had on Hawaiʻi’s economy.
The owners of the two thriving businesses are among the 15-member inaugural cohort of the Hawai‘i Investment Ready program (HIR) funded by Kamehameha Schools, the KL Felicitas Foundation and Social Impact International.
HIR was created to provide support to social entrepreneurs – business owners applying commercial strategies to improve human and environmental wellbeing. The peer-to-peer learning program equips entrepreneurs with knowledge of branding, business modeling, and financial analysis to help them maximize the impact of their enterprises.
Six members of the program’s first cohort – including the owners of MAʻO Organic Farms, Street Grindz, Local Catch and KU-A-KANAKA – shared their stories at the event which also marked the “graduation” of the cohort members from the two-year program. The forum was also fertile ground for discussions among current cohort members, prospective members and funders.
“I was most impressed by the number of people interested and willing to support this effort,” says Lisa Kleissner, president of the KL Felicitas Foundation and co-leader of the HIR program. “The Hawaiʻi community has stepped up more quickly than any other region we have worked in, bringing capital, networks, and much-needed business acumen to help grow the program.”
KS New Ventures Investment Manager Pia Chock agrees.
“The significant turnout for this event is evidence that there is interest, and more importantly, a need for the type of support HIR provides to the small social enterprises – owned and operated by Native Hawaiians – that will positively impact societal norms as we know them today,” says Chock.
HIR will initiate recruitment for a second cohort in January 2015. Cohort members can expect to benefit from the intensive, experiential training and access to experienced mentors throughout the two-year program.
“We have a pipeline of over 30 potential candidates for the next cohort,” says Kleissner. “Just a few years ago, most folks did not understand the difference between social enterprise and venture capital. Today, the Hawaiʻi community understands that Hawaiian social enterprise can be good for the community, profitable and investable. Our goal is to help deliver more investable Hawaiian social enterprise to investors and funders ensuring a sustainable and vibrant future for the islands.”
Members of HIR's first graduating class include KS ʻāina-based community collaborators Paepae o Heʻeia, Waipā Foundation, Hui Kū Maoli Ola, and Kupu Hawaiʻi; as well as commercial community partner Street Grindz, ʻŌiwi TV, MAʻO Organic Farms and others.
Prospective members and interested philanthropists and investors are encouraged to visit the Hawaii Investment Ready website and to contact Kleissner at (831) 624-1670, or firstname.lastname@example.org, for more