The Office of Hawaiian Affairs flagship loan program, OHA Mālama Loans, has been traveling around the state to talk story with some of its past and present OHA Mālama Loans beneficiaries, as well as other stakeholders, to find out how it can expand its services and support.
Through their travels, OHA Mālama Loans Program staff were able to hear many success stories about businesses that have benefited from the OHA Mālama Loans Program, and how they were able to take a small business loan and grow their clients, services or inventory.
“We are looking for ways to expand our support of our lāhui, to include better supporting ‘ohana and using our resources to continue perpetuating our culture,” said Thomas Atou, manager of the OHA Mālama Loans Program. “One business that encompasses these goals is Native Intelligence in Wailuku, Maui.”
Native Intelligence is more than a traditional retail establishment. The goal of Native Intelligence is to champion cultural traditions, craftsmanship and designs while perpetuating Hawaiian values.
“There was a need for more Hawaiian resources in our community, whether it was a Hawaiian dictionary or an ipu heke,” explains Kumu Kapono‘ai Molitau, founder and owner of Native Intelligence. “As a kumu hula, I always had to order these resources from O‘ahu. I wanted to create a place where these resources would be available locally for the Maui community, and more than that, to create a place where we could share stories and information, like how an ipu heke or pahu drum are made, and really help perpetuate the traditions and culture that has been passed to us from our kūpuna.”
Twelve years ago, Molitau and his wife, Jenny, took a step of faith and opened Native Intelligence. The interest from the Maui community exceeded their expectations, and within two years, they were looking for a bigger space to move into. That is when they approached OHA Mālama Loans to seek some of the financial leverage they needed to grow.
“We are so grateful that OHA Mālama Loans believed in us and provided support just when we needed it,” said Molitau. “It’s not easy to get a loan, especially when you’re a new business. It’s also difficult to know who to trust when you are starting to take bigger steps. OHA Mālama Loans is still part of our journey ten years later!”
Native Intelligence is now considering another possible expansion in the future. They envision having an even larger space to allow for more workshops and trainings.
“All along we have been working with community leaders and neighborhood schools in
hopes of extending educational programs and resources beyond our doors,” Molitau shared. “We also work with practitioners and artisans, encouraging the efforts of those who exemplify the best and brightest in Hawai‘i and Polynesia. We are so proud to embrace and perpetuate our culture. It is thriving, active, attentive and abundant in all aspects!”
Adds Atou, “OHA Mālama Loans is so proud to have been able to support Native Intelligence in a small way, so that their business could grow and thrive. We hope to support more businesses such as this, that give back to our community and enrich our lāhui.”