By Lauren Zirbel
The Made in Hawaiʻi Festival has been supporting local businesses for over a quarter century. For the tens of thousands of shoppers who visit the Festival each year it is an experience like no other, with hundreds of stalls of local food, art, clothes, and crafts; along with live local music, entertainment, and cooking demonstrations from world-renowned local chefs.
Having the Festival in person this year was not an option with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But for the Hawaiʻi Food Industry Association (HFIA), which produces the Festival, abandoning the mission and goals of the Made in Hawaiʻi Festival was not an option either.
The Made in Hawaiʻi Festival is much more than an event. It’s a local business incubator with few barriers to participate and a guaranteed audience – so even small companies have a place to start and grow. Products sold at the Festival must be genuinely made in Hawaiʻi, so the Festival is also a place where shoppers can support truly local businesses and interact with contemporary Hawaiʻi culture. Because most of the Festival attendees are Hawaiʻi residents, it’s an important economic driver for the state that is not reliant on tourism. Many Festival vendors use locally grown agricultural products to create value-added products which are sold to local consumers, creating a strong resilient Hawaiʻi economy.
HFIA knew it had to continue the important work of the Festival, so we created the Made in Hawaiʻi Festival Online Marketplace. The theme of this year’s Festival is “Standing Together With Aloha” because we believe that is how we’ll get through this crisis.
The Made in Hawaiʻi Festival Online Marketplace is unlike any other website. It allows shoppers to buy from hundreds of Hawaiʻi businesses, all in one place, and it gives vendors a chance to sell their products year-round to customers across the islands and around the world. For the Online Marketplace launch weekend, the spirit of the Festival was captured by streaming live music, cooking demonstrations and other entertainment. The launch weekend got the Marketplace off to a great start – vendors saw strong sales and, in addition to local shoppers, there were shoppers from every state and 93 countries! Presenting sponsors Central Pacific Bank Foundation and Mahi Pono, and sponsors Ulupono Initiative, Innovate Hawaiʻi, Buy Local, It Matters, Hawaiian Airlines, and Hawaiian Air Cargo are all committed to the Festival mission of supporting local businesses.
HFIA invested in the Marketplace because we take our responsibility to empower Made in Hawaiʻi businesses seriously. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged our state in so many unexpected ways. The Made in Hawaiʻi Festival Online Marketplace is our way of meeting that challenge and Standing Together with Aloha.
This December, www.madeinhawaiifestival.com is giving away a free trip on Hawaiian Airlines, we hope that you’ll join us in supporting Hawaii businesses by shopping at www.madeinhawaiifestival.com this holiday season, and all year round.
Lauren Zirbel is the executive director of the Hawaiʻi Food Industry Association. Established in 1972, the Hawaiʻi Food Industry Association is a nonprofit trade association whose mission is to actively promote the interests of Hawaiʻi’s food and beverage retailers and suppliers. Lauren directs and coordinates all activities and programs conducted by the association.