Hawaii’s most innovative entrepreneurs celebrated at HVCA awards gala

Blue Ocean Barns is Deal of the Year and RVCM is Entrepreneur of the Year

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The Hawaii Venture Capital Association (HVCA) held its 23rd annual Awards Gala February 23 with a sold-out crowd at Waialae Country Club cheering the recipients. 

“We are so thrilled to be back in person this year! To see our community of innovators and entrepreneurs come back together to celebrate what makes this industry so special is an incredible thing,” said Meli James, president of HVCA. “This gala is a great way to show our community why Hawai‘i’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is so vital to diversifying and expanding our economy.” 

Meli James

Joan Salwen, chief executive officer (CEO) of Blue Ocean Barns, accepted the Deal of the Year, an award recognizing the largest financial deal of 2022. Blue Ocean Barns is a software-enabled clean energy company.

Entrepreneur of the Year went to RVCM, with founder, Elden Ito accepting the award. RVCM is a leading enterprise digital transformation services company that helps the Federal Government and other heavily regulated enterprises move to the cloud quickly and securely.  The company provides world-class human-centered design, agile software development, DevSecOps, cyber-security, cloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and application modernization services. 

YIREH founder, Emily Jaime, claimed the People’s Choice award this year. YIREH is an socially conscious and ethically made women’s resort wear brand based in Kailua on Oʻahu that focuses on empowering and encouraging women.

Meli James and Brittany Heyd,co-founders of Mana Up, accepted the award for Investor of the Year. Mana Up started as a 12-week accelerator program for Hawai‘i product entrepreneurs and has since expanded to include a retail initiative,  logistics center and venture capital fund, which launched in 2021 with $6.3 million. 

Jim Wyban and Jason Ueki of Tropical AgTech Conference and HIplan, were named Startup Paradise Champion of the Year for support of the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. HIplan is a non-profit entrepreneur support and innovation ecosystem development organization. The nonprofit is currently focused on creating an innovation economy that creates climate-smart solutions for the tropical agrifood systems. 

The Corporate Intrapreneur of the Year was accepted by Ed Schultz, president and CEO of Hawaiian Host Company. Hawaiian Host Group is a leading Hawai‘i-based consumer goods company with a portfolio of brands that includes Hawaiian Host, Mauna Loa, and KOHO. It produces over 40 unique products, consumed in over 23 countries, ranging from flavored macadamia nuts to artisanal chocolates and plant-based ice cream.

Other award recipients are: 

Island Innovator of the Year went to NOHO Home with founder Jalene Kanani Bell accepting the award. NOHO Home reimagines the island home aesthetic with artful home decor woven with the stories of her Native Hawaiian heritage. 

Agriculture/CleanTech Entrepreneur went to Kahuku Farms, with fourth generation farmers and founders, Kylie Matsuda-Lum and Judah Lum accepting the award. Based on O‘ahu, Kahuku Farms handcrafts value-added culinary products using fresh ingredients from its farm.

Ed Lallier & Pat Cronin, founders of Vanta Development Group, took the prize for Tech Entrepreneur of the Year. A market leader in youth esports development, Vanta offers a youth esports development program for kids ages 8 through 18. The group works primarily with K-12 schools and provides competitive leagues, development camps, expert coaching and esports professional development training.  

Ka’ala Souza, founder of Digital Ready Hawai‘i was named Social Impact Entrepreneur of the Year. Digital Ready Hawai‘i aims to help others achieve their goals through training and resources that open doors, provide opportunities and expand horizons.

Becky Burns, Malia Burns and Bill Kiolbasa, founders of Anahola Granola, were recognized as the Consumer Packaged Goods Entrepreneur of the Year. Anahola Granola is a granola manufacturing company founded on Kaua’i in 1986 that sells granola, trail mix, and granola bars throughout the Hawaiian Islands and online.

Coen Cadinha , founder of Big Boy Sweets, took the prize for Student Entrepreneur of the Year. Cadinha, who recently participated in Hawai‘i Rising, a program designed for indigenous and native entrepreneurs, founded Big Boy Sweets, an online and pop-up shop offering local Hawai‘i snacks and candies. 

About Hawaii Venture Capital Association (HVCA)

Since its founding in 1988, HVCA has served as a catalyst and beacon in the heart of the Pacific for entrepreneurship, venture capital activity and growth. HVCA holds a monthly, curated luncheon where members and guests discuss the latest trends and developments in Hawaii’s business community that impact the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Each year, HVCA conducts an awards program recognizing up to 12 categories of entrepreneurs and investors in Hawaii’s Startup Paradise ecosystem. 

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