Kanaka Solopreneurship Course Promotes Hawaiian Economic Power


By Kū Kahakalau, Ph.D.

Young, motivated Hawaiians aspiring to run their own successful businesses, while remaining true to Hawaiian values and cultural practices like aloha ʻāina, can now earn a micro-credential in Kanaka Solopreneurship, while learning how to become a solvent Hawaiian solopreneur.

Solopreneurs are new kinds of entrepreneurs taking the business world by storm. Using emerging technologies, solopreneurs can start and run businesses entirely on their own. Where they lack expertise, solopreneurs outsource, acquiring supporting services and resources not available a decade ago.

Photo: Ecoversity interns Dyllon Ching and Kaiʻa Andaya
Paid EA Ecoversity interns Dyllon Ching and Kaiʻa Andaya, exploring media careers, interview EA Ecoversity Administrator Krisha Zane about the vision of EA Ecoversity. – Photos: Courtesy

A new EA Ecoversity course called Kanaka Solopreneurship, which will run from June to November 2022, will provide young emerging Hawaiian entrepreneurs, who already have a business endeavor in motion, with a highly flexible, interactive, culture-based way of learning, that empowers them to take their business to the next level.

In previous decades, the struggle of Native Hawaiians has mostly centered on cultural revitalization and aloha ʻāina. But no matter how successful Hawaiians are in these areas, without economic independence, our collective power and our ability to make social impact are severely restricted.

“My mom and I started Kū-A-Kanaka as a solopreneurship in 2015. Two owners, but no employees,” explained Kū-A-Kanaka Senior Project Director ʻIʻini Kahakalau. “In just a few years we were able to grow a successful, culturally grounded social enterprise, and are now teaching others how to become Kanaka business owners.”

Photo: Ecoversity interns Ocean Teves and Waimea Ramos
Paid EA Ecoversity interns Ocean Teves and Waimea Ramos, exploring careers in ranching and farming, use an auger to put in fence posts at Kapapa Loʻi o Kealiʻikuaʻāina in Waipiʻo Valley, EA Ecoversity’s aloha ʻāina research station.

Kanaka Solopreneurship is one of multiple EA E-Learning courses sponsored by EA Ecoversity, a culture-based higher education and career training program designed to empower Native Hawaiians ages 15-30. EA Ecoversity offers micro-credentials in Kumupaʻa, foundations in Hawaiian language and culture; Aloha ʻĀina environmental stewardship and food sovereignty; Ola Pono, healthy living; and Mahi, career exploration and training, with a special emphasis on Native Hawaiian entrepreneurship.

According to a 2021 Kamehameha Schools Hawaiian Education Assessment report, 50% of Native Hawaiians with young children do not earn a living wage, resulting in more Hawaiians than ever leaving for the continental U.S. due to economic hardships.

“Currently 83% of Hawaiians have no post-secondary credentials, compared to 42% statewide, making it extremely difficult to survive in Hawaiʻi,” said EA Ecoversity Executive Director Pōlanimakamae Kahakalau- Kalima, a mother of three. “We want to provide our generation with the economic power that will enable us to stay in our kulāiwi and raise our keiki here. One way to do this is by training young, bright, self-motivated, culturally grounded Hawaiians to become solopreneurs.”

Kanaka Solopreneurship has already received support from the Kūkiʻo Foundation, which will fund one full-time, six-month paid internship to a course participant based on the applicant’s preparation and completion of initial assignments. The goal is to eventually provide at least 50% of course participants with paid internships, with a special emphasis on young Hawaiian mothers, since only 4% of Hawaiʻi entrepreneurs are Hawaiian wahine.

To meet this goal, EA Ecoversity is seeking Hawaiian businesses and organizations interested in providing paid internships to additional Kanaka Solopreneurship participants, as well as social impact investors who want to sponsor EA Ecoversity learners on their two-year learning journey or support EA Ecoversity otherwise. Moreover, in partnership with Hoʻoulu Lāhui, EA Ecoversity is currently engaged in a fundraising campaign to create ʻĪpuka EA, an Indigenous Learning Exploration System that will set new standards in Hawaiian online education. Tax-deductible donations to ʻĪpuka EA will be matched by the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

Just like our kūpuna, many young Hawaiians today are incredibly innovative, creative and talented. Additionally, because of Hawaiian-focused schools and programs, many have strong foundations in their native language and traditions, which they can use to grow successful businesses in the education industry and beyond. Kanaka Solopreneurship is designed to help them develop not just the necessary skills to run their own business, but also a Kanaka entrepreneur mindset that will allow them to generate sufficient revenues to stay in Hawaiʻi.

And when Hawaiians thrive in our homeland, everyone benefits.”

EA Ecoversity

EA Ecoversity is currently accepting applications from Hawaiians with a high school diploma or equivalent and a background or interest in learning Hawaiian language and traditions and creating an enterprise that is aligned with Hawaiian standards. Applicants will be selected based on their experience as entrepreneurs or exploration in entrepreneurship.

Learners will gain practical and theoretical entrepreneurship foundations, engage hands-on in a Hawaiian social enterprise, and research and develop a product or service. They will also earn a micro-credential in Kanaka Solopreneurship. With the exception of monthly 90-min ZOOM meetings, Kanaka Solopreneurship is asynchronous, meaning activities can be completed anytime, anywhere there is internet access.

Visit kuakanaka.com to apply.
Deadline is May 31. Space is limited.

For more updates or info about Kanaka Solopreneurship, EA Ecoversity and Kū-A-Kanaka activities, follow Kū-A-Kanaka on Instagram or Facebook or visit www.kuakanaka.com.

Tax-deductible donations to ʻĪpuka EA can be made at www.kuakanaka.com.

Ku Kahakalau, Ph.D., is the founder of EA Ecoversity and an award-winning educator and social entrepreneur.