The first REV class

Artisan vodka made sustainably from the rich fruit of ʻuala, Hawaiian sweet potatoes. Native Maile lei, cultivated with indigenous cultural values at the forefront of the production. A local pest-control-meets-apiary business, where producing small-batch honey goes hand-in-hand with saving the bee population. A vegan food truck.

These ideas and more bounced around the room at Kapiʻolani Community College on August 16, where budding entrepreneurs rubbed shoulders with established members of industry and academia. Here, eight hopeful business owners-to-be were completing the final session of a six-week program partnership between Impact Hub Honolulu and the University of Hawaiʻi Community Colleges.

Dubbed Raising Entrepreneurial Ventures, or REV, the crash course on the ins and outs of industry was designed to mobilize minds behind would-be start-ups with the tools and resources needed to succeed in the business world. From funding and investing, to patenting and planning, organizers Shanah Trevenna and George Yarbrough of Impact Hub Honolulu tapped members of local business and start-up circles for input on how to build the entrepreneur-targeted curriculum the Hawaiʻi community needs.

“The startup ecosystem understands the benefit to collaboration,” said Yarbrough. “They all came together to support these REV program participants because they understand it takes a strong support group for small businesses to thrive.”

For University of Hawaiʻi Community College Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs Peter Quigley, the program’s success is a monumental, long-due step in the right direction. “This is an exciting development and the realization of a dream I’ve had for some time,” he said. Quigley pointed out that “structured educational experience is essential for providing the skills, the knowledge and the character-building needed for our students to move forward into the workplace. This entrepreneur initiative puts students in direct contact with the marketplace and their dreams.”

More about Raising Entrepreneurial Venture

The first REV class boasted a range of impressive and diversified expertise, from distilling to beekeeping, from cooking to technology. When it comes to translating those skills and talents into a sustainable, practical business model that’s where REV comes in. The eight entrepreneurs applied for the program earlier this year and spent the past month and a half participating in weekly virtual meet-ups and drafting the beginnings of firm business plans with the REV team’s guidance.

“There were a lot of twists and turns,” explained Yarbrough. “Entrepreneurship is like a science experiment—you have to constantly hypothesize, test and pivot.”

Then experienced members from the Honolulu start-up network filed in to hear the students’ pitches, and to offer valuable dialogue. “What’s your Plan B?” demanded one participant, while others challenged students to envision what they’d do with twice as much business, or pointed out opportunities for growth and diversification. The students tackled the questions thoughtfully, eager for pointers on how to take that next crucial step to make their small business dreams—be it bottling, beekeeping or feeding the city—a reality.

“The final event demonstrated more than we had hoped for,” admitted Quigley. “I’m so very proud of the participants—and I look forward to seeing their proposals realized in the Hawaiʻi economy.”

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