East Hawaii News

Microloans Available for Local Entrepreneurs

May 23, 2016, 3:27 PM HST
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Kohala Center, located in Waimea. Google Street View image.

Kohala Center, located in Waimea. Google Street View image.

Entrepreneurs striving to make a positive impact in communities on the Big Island and Moloka’i may be eligible for the Kahiau Rural Business Development Microloan Program, which is administered by the Kohala Center.

The program offers low interest microloans and hands-on business development services to help entrepreneurs build sustainable businesses, with a focus on local food production, ecosystem health, and renewable energy.

In addition to the financial viability of the business, the program considers non-financial values—including a business’s impact on community, culture, and nature—in the credit analysis and business development process.

Native Hawaiians and those who were born and raised in Hawai’i who are on the Big Island and Moloka’i are welcomed to apply.

Businesses that qualify can apply for loans between $2,000 and $15,000 with a fixed two percent interest rate with no collateral requirements.

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Funds obtained through the loans can be used for supplies, equipment, labor costs, construction costs, and other expenses that will contribute to business viability and growth.

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In addition to extending credit to entrepreneurs, the program offers hands-on business development assistance. The Kohala Center’s rural business development specialists provide program participants with individually tailored technical assistance, including help with business planning and financial record keeping.

Access to both capital and business development training aims to help entrepreneurs develop their business, build their financial acumen, establish a business credit history, and gain experience with the commercial loan application process.

Keith and Carmen Nakamura, who own and operate Lewa Nu‘u ‘Ohana Hydroponics Farm in Hilo received a Kahiau microloan in 2015 to build two greenhouses, pay down some of their startup costs, expand on-farm infrastructure, and obtain food safety certification for the farm.

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“This program helps people. People who just want better. People who want to provide for our community and to provide for our island. People like us,” said Carmen Nakamura. “Without this program, I really believe we wouldn’t be where we are today. In fact, we wouldn’t have a farm at all. As a small business—a very small business—it’s hard to survive let alone be created. But with this program, we had a chance. In the end, that’s what we all want, right? A chance.”

The program also incorporates community building into the technical assistance component by helping businesses develop a business team and a network of peers, mentors, and advisers.

“The program is a community in and of itself, comprised of past, present, and future borrowers who maintain the loan fund for each other’s mutual benefit,” said Anna-Lisa Okoye, chief operating officer of The Kohala Center. “Small, rural businesses on Hawai‘i Island and Moloka‘i can receive assistance to secure the resources, upgrades, and credit they need to advance to the next level. We’re grateful to the Kahiau Foundation for funding this program to strengthen Hawai‘i’s rural economy and communities.”

Eligible businesses may initiate the application process online or by calling the Kona Center at 887-6411.

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