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Entrepreneurs Sandbox: Creativity, Technology, Entrepreneurship

Ferraro Choi Architects
The new Entrepreneurs Sandbox is located at 643 Ilalo Street 'Ewa of the UH Medical School.

New help has arrived for Hawaii’s next wave of creative and technology start ups. It’s the new Entrepreneurs Sandbox: a community co-working, event and maker space in the Honolulu neighborhood of Kaka’ako.  The state and major business partners are investing in a combination of creativity, technology, and entrepreneurship.

Rex Maximilian
Credit Rex Maximillian

The Honolulu Printmakers Print and Book Fair springs to life in the Entrepreneurs Sandbox tomorrow, from noon to 9pm, Saturday, November 2, 2019.

What if Hawai‘i creatives in all fields had a place to test ideas, build prototypes and share concepts with other creatives? What if government was involved with proven job skill development programs? Then mentors stepped in to make industry connections?

Rechung Fujihira is the founder of Box Jelly, Honolulu’s first co-working space, and that whole concept is pumped up now at the State’s new Entrepreneurs Sandbox.

“It’s something you see happening in thriving start up ecosystems around the world," says Fujihira. "Finally we have this piece of the puzzle coming to the table.”

The idea is to have government, business, and start up creatives in the same space, sharing ideas and building on each others’ capabilities.

“We don’t know exactly how it’s going to play out,” says Fujihira,”But we know that just these conversations spark new ideas and opportunities.”

Noe Tanigawa
Credit Noe Tanigawa / Hawai'i Public Radio
Hawai'i Public Radio
Daniel Pham, Director of Operations at Box Jelly, also runs the new Sandbox. Here, a private phone booth available at the Sandbox. Interior furniture and artworks were selected by Pham and Maura Fujihira of fishcake. A second Box Jelly location in Ward Center is set to open, possibly in January 2020.

Daniel Pham, is Director of Operations at Box Jelly and also runs the new Sandbox. He says people are surprised when they come

“It’s like, Oh you guys have these dual screen monitors, and dual projectors out in the event space, so I guess having this tech oriented community space just spoke to a lot of people.”

The Sandbox is state owned, price tag: 7.4 million. Some forward thinking happened back in 2014. The state got a three million dollar federal grant for the Sandbox project, matched it, and negotiated for 1.4 million from Sanford Carr.

The Entrepreneurs Sandbox is located ‘Ewa of the UH Med School on Ilalo Street.  It has 4500sf of flexible co-working and event space, private rooms, conference rooms, high speed internet, a 3-story large format screen, and state of the art projection system. Also, a full digital media studio.  Georja Skinner, head of DBEDT’s Creative Industries, says the Sandbox is a unique resource for media entrepreneurs.

“Not only tools, also expertise, core tenants, and there's never been a creative co-working space," says Skinner. "I think that helps to spur the engine we need to drive our new economy in innovation and creative technology.”

Skinner sees students from high schools or college coming here to hone digital or technology skills, build a portfolio, and meet mentors in their fields.

The Hawai‘i High Technology Development Corporation (HHTDC) is managing the space, and secured buy in from high profile business leaders. Innovation teams from Central Pacific Bank, Servco Labs, Hawaiian Telcom and Pacxa are also tenants in the Sandbox. “We just help bring people together,” says Len Higashi, Executive Director for HHTDC. According to Pham, Paul Yonamine and CPB have been instrumental.

Box Jelly’s experience in the local co-working space brought creative partners to the project. They knew inclusivity and diversity would make for a particularly Hawai‘i mix.

“So we decided to make it as accessible as possible for people to enter the market of co-working,” says Pham.

The $85 membership, less than half the usual co-working membership, gets you into the collaboration space between 8-4:30 weekdays, discounts on conference and event spaces and a Biki membership. Why? Because otherwise you will pay to park at a meter or in a lot.

To keep memberships low, the space is rented out after 4:30, for meetings, film showings, a sketch comedy group used the space recently. At 3 weeks, the Sandbox is already 25% subscribed.

The next step is designing programs that members need to advance skills and promote networking.

“Things are moving so quickly,” says Fujihira “We need more places like this so I think this is the first one in the state and we hope there’s more.” 

Check out the space this weekend for the Print and Book Fair, so you’ll know where to go---the Honolulu Film festival’s VR lounge is at the Sandbox.

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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