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Native Hawaiian entrepreneur Tate Leleʻiohoku Castillo grew up in Kāneʻohe on the island of Oʻahu. Through his experiences in the University of Hawaiʻi System, he found his kuleana (responsibility) and purpose: to perpetuate Native Hawaiian culture in business and in our community while working toward a better future for the people of Hawaiʻi.

“As I made friends with folks with different backgrounds from community college to law school, I realized that everyone’s definition of ‘local’ is just as diverse as our various ethnicities and felt I broadened my understanding of what being ‘local’ really means,” Castillo said. “It’ll always be important for me to stay rooted in my Native Hawaiian culture because that’s something that I bring to the table and feel is my responsibility, so I’m trying to use my background and skills to make Hawaiʻi a better place for everyone who lives here.”

person looking at another person with text on the right side of the photo
Tate Castillo

The 2014 Kamehameha Schools Kapālama alumnus dedicated lots of effort in the UH System. Castillo earned an associate’s in pre-business from Windward Community College in 2016, graduated with bachelor’s degrees in finance, entrepreneurship and international business from UH Mānoa’s Shidler College of Business in 2018, earned his juris doctorate from UH Mānoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law in 2021 and is finishing up his master’s in business administration from Shidler this fall.

“I feel very fortunate having taken the path that I did at UH. I got to stay in Hawaiʻi, be at home with my friends and family, and get a great education that gave me opportunities to travel to Japan, China and Vietnam,” Castillo said. “…I never felt like I needed to leave to get all that, and I’m glad that I didn’t.”

Castillo is one of four students featured in UH Mānoa’s “Finding Our Kuleana” campaign, a collection of personal narratives that capture haumāna (students) who discover their purpose and sense of responsibility while pursuing college degrees. It is an opportunity to reimagine and illustrate how UH Mānoa can best serve our communities.

Related UH News stories:

Entrepreneurial roots began at UH

Castillo works at Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel, one of Hawaiʻi’s oldest law firms, and is a young ocean leader for Sustainable Ocean Alliance. He is also the CEO and founder of two companies he started as a student at UH Mānoa. Launched in 2018 through a Shidler entrepreneurial marketing class, Kope Soap upcycles coffee into artisan soaps and scrubs with the help of his friends and business partners, Matthew Yoshioka and Kirk Urada. Kope Soap partners with Honolulu Coffee Company to help reduce their environmental footprint. The company was kickstarted through Shidler’s Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE) programs, including the UH Business Plan Competition and the UH Summer Startup Launchpad.

It meant a lot that UH is really trying to set us up for success.
— Tate Castillo

Castillo also started Polū Energy, a renewable ocean energy technology company that has the potential to balance wind and solar while making seawater desalination cheaper and cleaner. Created in 2020, its mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to 100% clean energy. Polū Energy won third place and a prize package totaling nearly $10,000 in PACE’s UH Venture Competition in spring 2021, and took second place and a $2,500 prize in the UH Breakthrough Innovation Challenge in fall 2020.

“I tried my best to make use of all the resources available at UH to make sure I stayed committed to all my goals,” Castillo said. “It’s kind of surreal thinking back, but a year or so after graduating high school I’d made it my goal to one day complete the JD/MBA program at Mānoa. While still at Windward CC, I went through the Kaʻieʻie Transfer Program just to make sure I was doing everything right. Then at Shidler and Richardson, I feel there were more than enough resources—internships, job opportunities and networking events. It meant a lot that UH is really trying to set us up for success.”

Castillo’s work is an example of UH Mānoa’s four goals of Enhancing Student Success (PDF), Becoming a Native Hawaiian Place of Learning (PDF), Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF) and Building a Sustainable and Resilient Campus Environment: Within the Global Sustainability and Climate Resilience Movement (PDF) identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

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