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Promising University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Shidler College of Business freshmen learned how to kickstart a business and pitched their ideas to investors, all while raising almost $2,000 to help victims of the devastating Maui wildfires.

In the third annual Mālama Pono Challenge, approximately 30 Shidler DAP (Freshman Direct Admit Program) students spent two weeks in September 2023 creating a business plan, and manufacturing and selling their products. The eight student-led businesses ranged from making jewelry using kūpeʻe shells, to selling musubis, popsicles, li hing candies and more. The students eventually raised more than $995 in just a couple of weeks.

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The challenge culminated in a “Shark Tank” style event, where the students pitched their business ideas to a group of investors, including many Shidler alumni. The investors reacted positively to the students’ ideas and collectively “invested” $905, which combined with the business earnings, will be donated to a nonprofit organization to aid the victims of the Lahaina wildfire.

Constancio Paranal III, a Shidler instructor and Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE) faculty fellow, has organized and mentored the students involved in the Mālama Pono Challenge since the program’s inception. He has an extensive background in investment banking, law and nonprofit work. Paranal III advocates for socially responsible entrepreneurship, believing that education transcends the conventional scope of business and technology.

“Our mission extends beyond molding students into business-savvy professionals,” he said. “It’s about nurturing a mindset that derives purpose and meaning from their endeavors, emphasizing ethics and community impact as much as profit.”

‘Shark Tank’ event

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This was the first year that Paranal III put on a “Shark Tank” style event for the DAP students. During the showcase, the students presented their business concepts, fielded challenging questions and vied for investment.

“The challenge pushed us to implement our idea and experience firsthand the trials and rewards that come with it. You really can’t put a price on the difference you can make in the lives of others,” said Shidler DAP student Jazzmyn Mimura.

The event ended with a talk-story session featuring the professionals who served as investors and mentors. This session provided an opportunity for students to gain deeper insights into the world of business, and helped build a sense of community. It reinforced the notion that success is not just an individual achievement but a collective endeavor, where collaboration, mentorship and community support play pivotal roles.

“What truly sets the Mālama Pono DAP Challenge apart is its ability to bring together a diverse array of stakeholders, creating a dynamic blend of public and private collaborations,” Paranal III said. “This collaboration is essential in delivering innovation and fostering an entrepreneurial spirit. For the students, it’s not just about theoretical knowledge, but also about seeing these stakeholders in person, those who provide invaluable advice and guidance on what lies ahead and how to make the most of these opportunities.”

The students will have additional opportunities to take their businesses to the next level through PACE programs, such as the Kalo Grants, UH Venture Competition and the Summer Startup Launchpad.

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