There are more than 120-thousand small businesses in Hawai’i and the state is ready to help owners grow their business. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.
Hawai’i exports generated 23-billion dollars last year…according to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. The Hawai’i State Trade Expansion Program – HI-Step -- can help local owners with sales in foreign markets. Rob Hack is the project coordinator.
“Our programs are geared at trying to teach the small companies about export-related topics such as finance, logistics, shipping and labeling, cultural issues, how to attend a trade show, topics like this.”
Training and advising are provided free to local companies. The state also subsidizes participation at foreign trade shows. Owners pay air fare and partial fees. Mark Richie is the chief of DBEDT’s Business Support Branch.
“Hawai’i is a small market itself and for Hawai’i companies to grow, they have to think about shipping and selling their product outside of Hawai’I and that includes export markets”.
Artisan companies already export food products, candles and swimwear, primarily to Japan. Angie Higa is the CEO, owner and designer of a company that exports beach-inspired tote-bags and clutches. Her latest design is a water-proof lined pouch with a vintage photo.
“This is a picture of my parents. They met in 1949. Since my parents have passed, you know, this was my love letter to my parents. They met on a blind date and this was their first kiss.”
HI-Step is funded by a federal grant each year to DBEDT’s Business Development Branch. Jamie Lum is the Branch Chief.
“We receive $400-thousand from the Small Business Administration. What we have available for actual direct assistance to companies is about $80-
thousand. But the other funds are used to help subsidize trade shows that we take Hawai’i companies to. Altogether, we help close to 300 companies.”
Small Businesses in Hawai’i employ 260-thousand people or 38 percent of the state’s workforce. Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News