A Hawaiʻi Community College student is the $25,000 grand prize winner of a local business plan competition.
Amanda Gilroy, the entrepreneur behind Mermaid Mushrooms and a natural science student at the Hawaiʻi CC–Pālamanui campus in Kona, was named the winner of the HIplan Hawaiʻi Island Business Plan Competition on October 24.
“I still can’t believe it,” Gilroy said after her win.
Gilroy also won the student category and a one-year tuition scholarship. She will use her winnings to support her plan to grow gourmet mushrooms for local consumption.
“I’m thrilled to get this boost,” she said.
The HIplan competition began in 2016 and was held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The competition was conducted in three rounds, beginning with the submission of a business plan. Contestants with the top 15 plans advanced to the second round, which involved a seven-minute live presentation before judges. Eight competitors moved onto the final round.
Hawaiʻi CC students participate each year, and the student winner is awarded a tuition scholarship. Gilroy is the first student to make it past round one.
“Our winner clearly is helping to meet a need on our island that would transform the way that we consume, how we relate to our food, on island,” said Meli James, one of the judges. “I think that was pretty outstanding.”
HIplan 2020 finals judges were Leanne Okamoto, Kamehameha Schools; Meli James, Mana Up; Steve Sakoman, Sakoman Inc.; Ashley McShane, Blue Startups; and Pam Chasuta Anukoolthamachote, Elemental Excelerator.
“The process is really what’s special,” said HIplan organizer Jim Wyban. “They learn how to organize their thoughts into a coherent business plan, with a lot of feedback from us. Then, in practice sessions, they learn how to communicate clearly. I’ve seen people who have gone from barely able to talk about their business, to get up here and give a two-minute pitch that just knocks your socks off.”
The HIplan competition is sponsored by Kamehameha Schools, the Edmund C. Olson Trust II, Hawaiʻi CC, Ulupono Initiative and the County of Hawaiʻi.