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The Summer Startup Launchpad, a program of the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE) in the Shidler College of Business at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, offered students hands-on training and an opportunity to earn $4,000 to help kick-start their businesses. The free, six-week intensive program is open to all students from the 10 UH campuses and provided education and mentorship to help founding teams evaluate an idea and launch a business.

“This program fills the space between when you’re a student trying to be an entrepreneur and when you’re out in the real world trying to be an entrepreneur,” said Peter Rowan, executive director of PACE. “What we focus on is market valuation. One way to think about it: we don’t want to waste a whole lot of time talking about business unless it’s worth it.”

The 2018 program runs from May 21–June 29, and enrolled 12 teams who pitched their final business plans to a panel of mentors comprised of successful entrepreneurs. Each team that successfully completes the program can receive $4,000.

Rose Wong and Jena Funakoshi of Rose Gold Gems, an online-based affordable jewelry line, hope to earn a $4,000 award and put it toward product development. “We’re ordering more inventory and finding our international partners. Right now, we have one manufacturer in India and one in Italy,” said Wong.

Evan Strouse and Guillermo Villa of The Combat Ball, an exercise product that improves hand-eye coordination, plan to focus on manufacturing if they earn the $4,000. “You can see these are prototypes, so we can use that money to get a high-quality ball made,” said Strouse.

Students agree the program has been beneficial for those serious about starting a business. Strouse adds, “Having that mentorship and also getting the feedback each week when we do our presentations is really helpful. It’s been a great opportunity.”

Summer Startup Launchpad is sponsored by Mamoru and Aiko Takitani Foundation, Inc. and the University of Hawaii Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation.

student presenting in front of a class

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