3 Big Island businesses flourish under program geared to pump startups

  • Kelleigh Stewart and Brandon von Damitz. (Courtesy photo)

KAILUA-KONA — That’s some start.

Mana Up’s first cohort — 10 agriculturally entwined startups in the consumer packaged goods industry — expects to earn $10.9 million in 2018 in annual revenue.


That’s compared to $6.5 million in 2017, representing year-over-year growth of 67 percent, according to a press release on the new program.

Comparing actual first quarter revenue, companies grew 61 percent in the first 2018 quarter versus the first one in 2017. Collectively, cohort one companies exported $106,000 in 2018 and expect to grow to $575,000.

All the companies, representing 105 jobs, are hiring and expect to increase jobs to 130 in 2018. Twenty-one of the current positions are executive and management level. Creating a model to support Hawaii’s diversified agriculture industry, each of the companies source at least one ingredient for their products from Hawaii’s farms. All are growing their e-commerce sales.

“These results are very promising and support our belief that product businesses that elevate Hawaii’s brand, have their headquarters here and are suitable for export have a great chance of success and can be strong contributors to Hawaii’s economy,” said Meli James, Mana Up co-founder with Brittany Heyd.

Three Hawaii Island businesses are flourishing under the new program.

One is Big Island Coffee Roasters, founded by Kelleigh Stewart and Brandon von Damitz.

The award-winning Hawaii coffee farm, mill and roaster provides premium coffee products from Puna, Kona, Ka’u, Hamakua, Maui and Oahu. Big Island Coffee Roasters features the Taste of Hawaii coffee club and the Espresso Bites bar made from 100 percent Hawaiian coffees and no chocolate.

Little Hands Hawaii is another businesses enjoying early success.

It was founded by Rosalyn Ardoin and Mike Koenigs and is Hawaii’s original reef-friendly, baby-safe sun protection company that makes its product with high quality ingredients. It spreads awareness on preserving coral reefs and provides the safest sunscreen for the entire ohana.

The third Big Island business is Mana Artisan Botanics, founded by Steve Sakala, Melinda Goossen, Pelin Thorogood, Andy Noorda, and Shimyrre Britt.


Hawaii’s first wellness-driven hemp company handcrafts phytocannabinoid-rich products for endocannabinoid system support. Based in Kailua-Kona, the company offers artisanal, whole-plant hemp extracts, infused with pure Hawaiian botanicals designed for health and wellness.

Cohort one started in January and participated in the 12-week accelerator program, which focuses on helping companies scale their product businesses by finding opportunities for growth and tackling production challenges that typically come with fast-growing revenue such as sourcing, manufacturing and shipping. The program culminates in a showcase, which drew more than 600 attendees and generated $7,500 in sales.