Mahi‘ai Match-Up to Build Resilient Economies

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Kamehameha Schools (KS) is partnering with the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA)  and The Kohala Center (TKC) to strengthen Hawai‘i’s food system through Mahi‘ai Match-Up,  a business plan competition that provides food-focused entrepreneurs from across the pae ‘āina with an opportunity to farm agricultural land or develop a business in a commercial space.

Mahiʻai Match-Up is accepting applications beginning today from farmers and agricultural food producers interested in entering the competition. As part of the contest, CNHA’s KūHana program will provide applicants with classes and guidance on developing business plans, pitching their business plans and ongoing mentorship support, technical assistance and networking opportunities.

Interested food systems entrepreneurs can apply both through CNHA’s KūHana at or through KS’ Mahi‘ai Match-Upat The competition awards include an agricultural land agreement on a KS parcel and, for the first time this year, an agreement on a KS commercial property within Kapālama Kai, Oʻahu. Winners will also receive start-up capital. The application window closes on Dec. 10.

CNHA’s KūHana program is excited to open its sixth KūHana cohort with this collaboration. “Our KūHana program is designed to meet businesses during their development stages and to identify the best ways to support their growth. And within the cohort, the participating businesses network and support one another to work towards the collective goal of raising the lāhui,” said CNHA Chief Executive Officer Kūhiō Lewis. “We are proud to partner again to broaden our reach and impact in the food systems economy.”


Top business plans from the KūHana cohort will become finalists to compete for Mahi‘ai Match-Up awards from KS. TKC will utilize its expertise to coach the finalists with final business planning preparation and continued business support services beyond the program.  This partnership builds upon previous collaborations to grow local food and economic security.

This is the eighth year that KS has supported agricultural and food systems business plan competitions.Mahiʻai Match-Up supports start-up local farming and food production ventures. While uplifting agricultural education and innovative solutions to improve Hawaiʻi’s food security, the effort also bolsters KS’ ability to deliver on its core educational mission while driving the success of its tenants.

Mahi‘ai Match-Up is part of KS’ efforts toward growing Hawai‘i’s food systems – increasing the productivity and resiliency of agricultural-related businesses on KS ‘āina and building our campuses’ and consumer interest in locally grown foods and services. Environmentally and economically sustainable food production is a meaningful component of the Hawaiian culture, a diversified economy, and overall well-being of Hawai‘i’s people.


“The success of our farmers and small businesses supports the overall growth of agriculture and food industries, which are critical to a thriving community,” said Kā‘eo Duarte, vice president of Kamehameha Schools’ Community & ʻĀina Resiliency. “Our hope is that the Mahiʻai Match-Up competition will support our lāhui through the production of more healthy, accessible and ʻono food. Strengthening the businesses feeding our communities creates jobs that support our keiki and familes across Hawaiʻi. We are proud to continue our work with CNHA and TKC to continue to grow food systems entrepreneurs and ʻōiwi leaders.”

Mana ʻŌlena, a family-owned business which is growing ʻōlena (tumeric) and ʻulu (breadfruit), won the 2020 Mahiʻai Match-Up competition and received a $10,000 cash prize from Ulupono Initiative, waived rent for five years on KS land in Hilo, and wrap-around business support services from TKC.

CNHA, KS and THC collaborated last year to uplift 24 food systems entrepreneurs and award $135,000 directly to businesses. These collaborations are a part of KS’ food systems initiative that aims to grow healthy and accessible food in Hawaiʻi to feed Hawaiʻi and beyond. KS stewards more than 181,000 acres of agricultural lands.  These lands produce approximately 19 million pounds of food annually.


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