Festival celebrates small businesses and products

This day marks the first ever Made In Maui County Festival. The event, promoting over 130 companies who manufacture locally made products in Maui County with at least 51 percent of their value added in Hawaii, is being held at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center today from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Co-presented by the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development and the Maui Chamber of Commerce, the festival gives us all an opportunity to celebrate our local entrepreneurs and enjoy the good things that Maui County has to offer. Together, we can take great pride in these quality products that share our spirit of aloha with the world, support our small businesses and find perfect holiday gifts for the special people on our shopping list.

A big mahalo goes out to Mayor Alan Arakawa for putting the event in his proposed budget and to the Maui County Council, which funded this two-day event.

The goal is to support our small businesses, which are the backbone of our community, promote locally made products and Buy Maui First, leverage Maui County’s prestigious brand, provide expanded opportunities for small business to grow, prosper and create new jobs, and improve our county’s economy.

It came about due to an initiative last year where the County of Maui took 18 businesses to the Made In Hawaii Festival.

It was a massive and costly effort to send companies and their products to Oahu for this event. However, the results were spectacular and they knew it was time for Maui County to have its own show.

They contacted us about partnering on this amazing venture as the Maui Chamber of Commerce has long had the Made In Maui program and has been promoting products made by local people, local hands and local hearts for decades. It has been a great partnership that could only be done through the incredible vendors who were eager to participate, the committed group of volunteers who helped plan and work the event, and the wonderful sponsors who joined in to support the effort and made it possible through their contributions.

Originally, 102 booths were planned, but the response from qualified vendors was so tremendous that the team continued to work with the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, which pushed the envelope to give us even more space. We maxed out every area to house over 130 companies that include diverse products (including food, fashion, art, aquaponics, jewelry, bath and body, plants, coffee and more), to phenomenal food trucks, spirit purveyors and more.

The show began with a buyers, wholesalers and distributors event Friday night to help our vendors increase sales and grow their business. It is being followed by the main event today – the public show for residents and guests to enjoy. Between 6,000 and 8,000 people are expected and the first 2,000 will receive a free event tote. The cost is only $3 for adults, with children 12 and under free.

The festival’s agenda includes many things to do and see. There will be lots of food and beverage product sampling, spirits sampling for those over 21, product demonstrations, food truck meals, a fashion show and door prize drawings with many opportunities to win. Winners need not be present to win; they will be contacted on Monday and can pick up their winnings at the Maui County Business Resource Center by Nov. 17.

This is an event not to be missed and is being held just in time for the holidays to help people get their shopping done early. We hope you will join us for this fun-filled day and celebrate with us as we honor those who are keeping it local and giving us great quality products to be proud of and choose from.

* Pamela Tumpap is president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.