Hawaii Strong: Pop-Up Makeke, a one-stop shop to buy local during the pandemic

Updated: Nov. 27, 2020 at 2:12 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As witnessed in malls and shopping centers across the country, much more of the Black Friday shopping event in 2020 is being done online.

But if you want to support local businesses, there’s a one-stop shop that was set up in response to the pandemic.

When COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 Merrie Monarch Festival and its enormously-popular craft fairs, small business owner Tiare Kaolelopono was in shock.

[This story is part of HNN’s “Hawaii Strong” series, profiling businesses in the islands adapting to the pandemic and its economic fallout. To suggest a profile, send an email to hawaiistrong@hawaiinewsnow.com.]

”I was thinking about my ohana, and how long can my savings last? That about sums it up,” says Kaolelopono, who runs All Things Maoli, Co., a jewelry company.

That’s when the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement stepped in.

“The Pop-Up Makeke really came by way of the shock that our organization felt when the Merrie Monarch was canceled,” said Kuhio Lewis, the president and CEO of the CNHA. “We knew that not only was this national platform that puts Hawaii on display being canceled out, so were hundreds of Hawaii small businesses who go to Merrie Monarch to try and make ends meet and feed their families.”

With assistance from CARES ACT funds, Lewis and the non-profit developed an online makeke, or marketplace, to serve as a home for products from vendors across the state.

After building a robust digital platform, CNHA partnered with Hawaii News Now for a weekly television broadcast.

”The Pop-Up Makeke is an Amazon-like, QVC-like production in one,” said Lewis. “You have an Amazon-like marketplace, where you have thousands of products across the island. So the marketplace is very representative of Hawaii’s diversity. You have something from every island, you have something from every culture, all in this marketplace.”

Through November, more than 50,000 products have been sold and shipped around the world. All proceeds go to the vendors.

”Honestly, Pop-Up Makeke helped me recover at least 90% of my income that I would have earned at Merrie Monarch, so I’m super thankful for this endeavor,” says Kaolelopono.

It’s an endeavor that’s been a lifeline for both longtime companies and those that just started in the middle of the pandemic ― like Ka Hui Palaka, which got its start selling face masks online.

”You know how they say things happen for a reason, and there’s blessing in disguise? Well a business was born, so we’re very, very grateful for it, and we’re very grateful to Pop-Up Makeke in allowing this venue to launch our business.”

The original plan was for the marketplace to only last a couple months, but Lewis is now exploring ways to keep it running past the pandemic ― given that it’s been critical for Hawaii’s business community.

“This is about, many of them didn’t have online experience. they didn’t have the ability to market their products the way that the Pop-Up Makeke has supported them,” Lewis says. “So this whole initiative has helped uplift our businesses in so many ways.”

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