Every year thousands of people flock to the Made in Hawaii Festival. Some of the vendors at the food and product show are well established, but others are just starting out and trying to get a foothold.
"This was actually envisioned as a business incubator 22 years ago," says festival Executive Director Amy Hammond. That's a big reason why 400 vendors signed up, with even more on a waiting list who wanted to get in.
Hammond says some of the local businesses are testing the waters, trying new food flavors or clothing colors, "And then being able to see if it works here at Made in Hawaii, where there's a small sample, should they they take it to market."
Clothing designer Roberta Oaks has one of the businesses that achieved success after getting a start at the Festival years ago. "This show is a great opportunity for small businesses to kind of launch their brands or figure out who their customer is," she says.
It's not just everyday customers who are coming in to take a look. There are also "buyers" -- other retailers who are looking for Hawaii products to feature in their stores.
That's what's happening to Renee Rokero, who sells handmade jewelry under the name Kolohe Gurl. She's mainly done retail for the past four or five years. "Now I've got enough inventory and I have staff to help me, so now I'm moving into the wholesale area, working with hotels, various stores here and in California," she says.
Maui Nui Venison is one of 15 new vendors. It just started selling gourmet jerky, made from Axis deer on Molokai, last January.
"This exposure, being able to tell our story, what what we do, has probably been the best thing we've done so far in our short company life," says Maui Nui partner Kimo Tuyay, who adds that sales have already exceeded the company's expectations for the show. And that's boosted their confidence for continued success after the show is over.
The Made in Hawaii Festival continues through the weekend at the Blaisdell Center Exhibition Hall and Arena.