Hawai‘i-based entrepreneurs with value-added food products using local ingredients are encouraged to apply by April 15

HONOLULU, HI (March 25, 2024)—Hawaii Ag & Culinary Alliance (HACA) is excited to announce that applications are now open for Cohort 4 of the ChefZone Presents From Cottage Industry to Commercial Enterprise program, in partnership with Leeward Community College (Leeward CC) and the Wahiawa Value-Added Product Development Center (WVAPDC). Designed to support Hawaii’s agricultural industry by cultivating value-added food producers using local ingredients, each cohort invites 15 Hawaii-based entrepreneurs to incubate their food products, taking them from concept to business plan and pitch with the tools to grow and scale their businesses.

As part of the HACA program, each entrepreneur receives a full scholarship to participate in Leeward CC’s 12-week Aina to Makeke course, developed to bring food and beverage products to market and build successful food businesses with lessons in licensing & regulations, operating in commercial kitchens, branding & marketing, packaging, sales & distribution, and more. Cohort participants will also be introduced to the new WVAPDC—opening this spring—giving small-batch producers in Hawaii the opportunity to scale production, build efficiency and seek new business. In addition, entrepreneurs receive invaluable mentorship from HACA’s network of industry leaders, chefs and food and beverage professionals, as well as promotional, networking and sales opportunities through the program.

“Supporting small batch producers in Hawaii with the resources and tools to scale their food products globally is an integral part of increasing demand and production of local agricultural crops,” said Denise Yamaguchi, CEO of Hawaii Ag & Culinary Alliance. “Diversifying our economy while creating greater food security and sustainability for our islands is a top priority,” shared Yamaguchi, as is developing ways for the visitor industry to support local agriculture. “There is great potential for visitors to directly impact agriculture in Hawaii by buying local products committed to sourcing from local farmers, ranchers and fishermen. As our entrepreneur’s scale, there are increased possibilities for visitors to support Hawaii’s agriculture through value-added products that find their way into the global marketplace.”

Earlier this month, HACA and Leeward CC selected 15 value-added entrepreneurs for Cohort 3 of the ChefZone Presents From Cottage Industry to Commercial Enterprise program, currently enrolled in the Aina to Makeke program. The businesses selected for the March 2024 program included: Summer Akuna, Big Island Bitters; Aloha Bugakova, Aloha Raw; Jaime Cabuag, 3 Spoonfuls of Sugar; Randy Cortez, Palaman Purveyors; Brittany Egnew, KetoSnaxHI; Terrence Enomoto, Island Sausage; Gloria Ilagan, Mauna Kea Trading Company; Robert Kekoa, Humble Food Designs; John Rust, Aloha Aina Farms Haleiwa; Janis Tanga, For J’s Hawaii; Raymond Trinh, SoulSum; Justin Udom, Pop Culture Artisan Pops; Jon Watase, Oahu Grown Mamaki; Jina Wye, Sea Crunchies; and Weston Yap, Kupuna Kalo. The program, which began in 2023, has already successfully completed two cohorts of entrepreneurs, 35% of which began selling in retailers like 7-11, Foodland, ABC Stores, Down to Earth and more after the program.

“After witnessing the impressive journey of our past cohorts, I am thrilled to see the continuation of ChefZone’s partnership with HACA and Leeward CC in empowering Hawaii’s food entrepreneurs,” shared Russell Hata, CEO of ChefZone. “Our commitment to fostering local talent and innovation remains unwavering. Together, we are not just building businesses; we are cultivating a sustainable future for Hawaii’s agricultural industry.”

Applications for Cohort 4 are open now through April 15, 2024. The 12-week Aina to Makeke courses for Cohort 4 will run from June 17-September 9, 2024 on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:30-7:30 P.M. A virtual information session will be held on April 10 at 5:30 P.M. for interested applicants. For more information on the program, requirements and application, please visit www.hawaiifoodandwinefestival.com/cottageindustry.

Support for the From Cottage Industry to Commercial Enterprise program is provided by the State of Hawai‘i and ChefZone.

5For Press & Media inquiries, please contact:
Kristen Lau-Grover, Director of Marketing & PR | [email protected] or 808-721-1849

The Hawaii Ag & Culinary Alliance (HACA) is the parent organization of the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival (HFWF)—the premier epicurean destination event of the Pacific, and Hashi Media—the digital platform for curated culinary stories featuring the global network of HFWF ambassadors and talent. Founded in 2011 as a 501c3 nonprofit organization, HACA’s mission is to attract national and international attention for Hawaii’s extraordinary culinary talent and diverse, high-quality locally grown products—ensuring the islands maintain their competitive edge as a world-class destination. Since it’s inaugural year, HACA has donated over $3.5 million to local community and aina-based organizations that support food sustainability, culinary education and agriculture. For more information, visit www.HFWF.me, follow HFWF on Instagram @HIFoodWineFest and Facebook at @HawaiiFoodandWineFestival.


As part of the University of Hawaii system, Leeward Community College provides an environment for academic learning and a center of cultural life for neighboring communities. With a main campus in Pearl City and an educational center in Waianae, and the Wahiawa Value-Added product Development Center, Leeward Community College’s proven commitment to affordable, quality education is the foundation of its mission. From professional career studies to liberal arts, the College offers diverse and comprehensive opportunities for all students.

For more information, visit www.leeward.hawaii.edu, follow @Leewardcc on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or contact Tad Saiki, Marketing Officer, at [email protected]. For information about the Wahiawa Value-Added Product Development Center, contact Chris Bailey at [email protected].