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Hirono hosts roundtable with US Trade Rep. and Hawaiʻi small business owners : Maui Now


February 25, 2024, 10:00 AM HST

US Sen. Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaiʻi and US Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai held a roundtable discussion with Hawaiʻi resource partners and local business owners.

The business owners discussed the challenges they have faced in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and inquired about opportunities to expand their reach to overseas markets through federally funded programs, such as the US Small Business Administration’s State Trade Expansion Program.

“Millions of jobs in our country can be attributed to small businesses, which is why it is crucial that our trade policies support efforts made by our locally-owned businesses to export their products to consumers around the world,” said Hirono, who is a member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.  “I appreciated hearing from these business owners and other members of our community about the importance of export development and broadening the reach of local small businesses beyond our islands. I’ll continue working with Ambassador Tai and other state, local, and federal partners to expand opportunities for Hawaiʻi’s local businesses.”


“I’m very inspired by the creativity and resilience of the small business owners that Sen. Hirono and I had the opportunity to meet with in Honolulu,” said Ambassador Katherine Tai. “Their passion and resourcefulness demonstrate why small businesses are the lifeblood of every community. This roundtable provided an invaluable opportunity to learn from the insights these business owners shared from their experiences starting up, navigating the challenges and opportunities of the pandemic years, and how they seek to incorporate the culture of Hawaiʻi into their products – lessons important to implementing economic and trade policies that build our economy from the middle out and bottom up.”

Sen. Hirono and Ambassador Tai heard from each business about their experience operating in a diverse state like Hawaiʻi and the importance of e-commerce sales for growing businesses. The roundtable included representatives from YWCA Oʻahu; Hawaiʻi Small Business Development Center Network, Hawaiʻi State Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, and INNOVATE Hawaiʻi.

Roundtable participants included:

  • Colleen McAluney, Director of YWCA Oʻahu’s Patsy T. Mink Center for Business and Leadership
  • Noriko Namiki, CEO of YWCA Oʻahu
  • Joe Burns, State Director of Hawaiʻi Small Business Development Center Network
  • Wayne Layugan, Project Engineer at Hawaiʻi Technology Development Corporation
  • Mary Dale, Economic Development Specialist at US Small Business Administration Hawaiʻi District Office
  • Jamie Lum, Business Development Program Manager at Hawaiʻi DBEDT
  • Alice Kim, Founder of Hanalei Beauty Co. LLC
  • Byron Goo, Co-founder of Tea Chest Hawaiʻi
  • Kea Peters, Owner and Illustrator of Kākou Collective
  • James Chan, Owner and General Manager of Hawaiian Chip Company

Source: Maui News

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