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A first-of-its-kind “Shark Tank” style event at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa resulted in five student-led business ideas earning $1,000 or $500 prizes, and dozens of students gaining real world experience in innovation and entrepreneurship.

The inaugural Kalo Grants program, hosted by the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE) in the Shidler College of Business, culminated in a live pitch event at the state-of-the-art Walter Dods, Jr. RISE Center in October 2023.

Teams from UH Mānoa and UH Maui College received the top prize of $1,000 each, and three other teams won $500 prizes.

The top two business ideas were:

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  • Hawaii NutriNative is an app designed to intertwine culture and nutrition while addressing food insecurity and the undervalued richness of Native Hawaiian foods. This project was by Dongjun Xie, a food science and nutrition student at UH Mānoa.
  • ResQ Drone Innovations is a more efficient and humane way of finding survivors and recovering bodies using drones. This project was developed by UH Maui College applied business and information technology (ABIT) students Cody Hankins, Joshua Bushe, Bryson Uehara and Sang Bui.

The members of the UH Maui College team are students of Debasis Bhattacharya, associate professor and program coordinator of the UH Maui College Applied Business and Information Technology program. Bhattacharya aligned his class with the Kalo Grants program and encouraged his students to apply.

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“The PACE Kalo Grants program was a great opportunity to apply what was learned in the classroom in a competitive setting, including a live pitch, at the Walter Dods, Jr. RISE Center and to showcase the ABIT capstone students’ business ideas,” Bhattacharya said. “Seeing all of my ABIT students come home with a PACE Kalo Grant to continue pursuing their ideas to support the Maui recovery efforts is very meaningful.”

Before making it to the live pitch event, students were tasked with submitting a business narrative. Entries that demonstrated high potential were invited to pitch to a live audience that would help to determine the awardees. Leading up to the event, the students were provided with coaching to prepare for their presentations. Scores from the audience were tallied, and results were announced at the close of the event. Attendees had the chance to celebrate with and meet the awardees.

“We’re always looking for new ways to support students,” PACE Executive Director Sandra Fujiyama said. “With this new Kalo Grants program, we’re providing students with a little bit of cash to take their ideas to the next level. We’re also hoping that by participating they gain the confidence to keep going down the startup path. For many of them, this will be their first taste of entrepreneurship, and hopefully the beginning of an extended journey with PACE.”

Students helping students

Kalo Grants is a program organized for students by students. It is a special focus of PACE to increase the number and frequency of student-led events. A team of five students from diverse backgrounds ran Kalo Grants (four undergraduates and one graduate student from Shidler college, travel industry management, social sciences and information and computer sciences).

Get involved, earn funding

The Kalo Grants program is open to all UH students, from any program of study and any UH campus. The intent of the program is to provide small amounts of seed funding to students who wish to pursue an idea for a business. Participants are challenged to research market opportunities, identify customer segments, and build a minimum viable product, as well as hone their presentation skills. The deadline to apply for the next round of Kalo Grants is October 31, and there will be monthly chances to apply for both grant levels ($1,000 and $500). For more information, visit PACE’s website.

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