15 Vie for $25,000 to Start a Business

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hiplan-logoFifteen local entrepreneurs are vying for a $25,000 prize in venture capital to launch a new business.

The Hawaii Island Business Plan Competition (HIplan) start-up money will be awarded to an entrepreneur who submits the best business plan.

The 15 contestants, who come from all over Hawai‘i Island, were selected from 49 who submitted seven-page detailed business plans last month.

Some of the plans outline diversified agriculture businesses: an ulu (breadfruit) producers’ cooperative, cultivating wasabi (horseradish), domesticating ohelo berries; raising queen-bees for export; and growing hydroponic vegetables for local restaurants.

Other plans describe businesses in the technology or service fields: doctors taking a new approach to healthcare delivery; training young people in filmmaking and animation; manufacturing affordable housing from shipping containers; and building a commercial application of the Hawaiian lunar calendar.


The competition is hosted by the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and administered by the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce.

The co-chairs, originators and organizers of the HIplan project are aquaculture entrepreneur Jim Wyban and Realtor Kelly Moran, president of Hilo Brokers.

“Our goal,” said Moran, “is to stimulate an entrepreneurial ecosystem here on Hawaii Island.”

On Saturday, Oct. 22, the 15 competitors will each make a 15-minute plan presentation with PowerPoint visuals to a team of judges.


The judges are Realtor Kona Moran, vice president of Hilo Brokers; Ron Gordon, chair of the UHH Communications Department.; Jack Jackson, owner of the Volvo Hawaii dealership; Bill Walter, CEO of W.H. Shipman Ltd.; Dave DeLuz, CEO of Big Island Toyota; Lorraine Shin, a Hilo-based entrepreneur; and Robbie Melton, CEO of Hawaii Technology Development Corp.

The judges will select about half of the entrepreneurs to be finalists who will compete for the $25,000 prize on Saturday, Nov. 5.

The competitors must demonstrate three skills that HIplan’s sponsors deem critical to obtaining venture capital nowadays.

“They will submit a seven-page detailed business plan, fine-tuned from feedback they’ll have received in the previous rounds,” said Wyban. “They will make oral and visual presentations. And they will deliver a two-minute ‘elevator pitch,’ so-called because being able to explain—briefly but succinctly— what you want to do and how is often vital to obtaining financing in the real world.”


The judges for that final round of the HIplan competition on Nov. 5 are: Howard Dicus, business reporter for KGMB; Murray Clay, managing director of the Ulupono Initiative in Honolulu; Don Kosak, a venture capitalist with The Technology Exchange; Scott Ferrell, a business attorney who recently moved here from Southern California; Chenoa Farnsworth, president of Hawaii Angels and CEO of Blue Startups; and Chuck Erskine, Hilo-based vice president of First Hawaiian Bank.

The Oct. 22 and Nov. 5 events, which  will be held on the UHH campus starting at 9 a.m. in room UBC 100, will be live-streamed online on the Hawaii Interactive Technology System website.

“There are too few ‘bridges’ between the island’s business community and the university,” said Moran. “Our long-term goal, shared by all of the participants, is to establish an islandwide entrepreneurial ecosystem that includes business people and UH people. Too often, university graduates cannot find work here. We want to expand their opportunities.”

“The business communities of East and West Hawaii tend to be separate, so we feel that the HIplan competition will stimulate collaboration,” said Wyban. The Silicon Valley experience shows that networking is the ‘secret sauce’ of successful places.”

For more information, go to, or contact Jim Wyban at (808) 938- 2840 or  [email protected].

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