Hawaiian baby food concept takes top prize at startup event

MEDB workshop jump-starts ideas

The Maui News

Poi Belly, a Hawaiian on-the-go baby food concept company using locally sourced ingredients, took first place in the Startup Weekend Maui event, held from Friday to Sunday at the Maui Research & Technology Park in Kihei.

Jody Yoshida, Lauren Burgess and Naomi Glass had 54 hours to create a new business from concept to market in an event, presented by the Maui Economic Development Board, aimed at inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs, according to an MEDB news release.

“I had this crazy idea for a Hawaiian baby food product and I didn’t know how it would go, but after our team did a lot of the market research, we figured out it could work,” said Yoshida. “It all came together when I talked to a local taro farmer about the viability of this product, and I guess I’ll be contacting them shortly as well.”

The Poi Belly team received a first-prize package that included a $200 gift card; a pass to Maui Economic Opportunity’s Core 4 Business Planning workshop; four nutritional labels from the Maui Food Technology Center; a Maui Chamber of Commerce one-year membership; two hours of legal advice from McKeon Sheldon Mehling; two hours of consultation with David Galper, an adviser at Flybridge Capital Partners; one-day rental of the MEDB Malcolm Center in Kihei; two hours of branding advice from Sae Design; two hours of digital branding consultation by The Accidental Consultant; design of a rack card or business card by Linn Nishikawa & Associates; and printing of 1,000 rack cards or business cards from Maui Printing Co.

More than 30 people participated in this year’s Startup Weekend Maui at the MEDB Malcolm Center. Seventeen startup ideas were pitched and teams formed around the top ideas. From there, it was a race to the finish throughout the weekend with the help of Startup Weekend coaches and judges.

The culmination was the presentation of their business ideas to a panel of judges Sunday. The judges were Omar Sultan, co-founder of Sultan Ventures and founding and managing partner of XLR8UH; Donavan Kealoha, senior associate for Startup Capital Ventures; Britanny Heyd, managing director and general counsel for 1776; Luana Mahi, owner and principal broker of Kismet Natural Foods Brokerage; and Susan Yamada, executive director for Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Hawaii.

Motor Pig, consisting of Joe Baranowski, Conan Crawford, David Pickett, Michael Rodby, Shane Tajima and Ben Ward, finished second. Their concept was an information technology services company for the eSports industry. Their first product was aimed at helping team owners generate a high-end, dynamic team website that would be easily created and maintained.

Life Search, with team members Jeremy Amano, Debbie Hauguel, Ashley McKenney, Ethan Moengchaisong and Maya Ooki, came in third. Their company would build a waterproof, GPS-integrated wrist-ware with a panic button, safe zone light indicator and complimentary mobile application.

Event sponsors included the county’s Office of Economic Development, High Technology Development Corp., Pacific Media Group, Hawaii Strategic Development Corp., HI-Growth Initiative, Sultan Ventures, XLR8UH and Startup Capital Ventures.

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