UH Hilo student advances to semifinals in state business competition

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Date: Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642

For Immediate Release

A University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo business student has been awarded a $500 statewide entrepreneurship grant from The Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE) at the University of Hawaiʻi’s Shidler College of Business. Kiersten Akahoshi was part of a select group of students from UH Hilo and UH Manoa to receive the awards this school year through the Imagine, Discovery, Realize (IDR) Grants program, which assists students through the business development phases of creation, feasibility and commercialization.

$100 Imagine grants are awarded to students whose idea for a product or service is selected by the program, and attend a one-hour seminar on “next steps” to develop that idea. The $500 Discovery Grant is designed for students seeking to take a specific business idea to the next level, and is part of the UH Business Plan Competition (BPC), which has grown into the state’s largest competition of its kind. The grants were awarded to 23 teams that qualified for the semi-final round of the BPC, met with a PACE professional-in- residence, and attended an entrepreneur boot camp.

Dr. Emmeline de Pillis, UH Hilo professor of management, said Akahoshi is competing against a strong field. She said advancing to this point in the Business Plan Competition speaks volumes about the quality of her proposal.

“Many entrepreneurs start out thinking that everyone's a potential customer and no one's a potential competitor—this is a big mistake, and a very common one,” de Pillis explained. “Kiersten has used her marketing and management training to describe precisely who her target customer is, how she will meet that customer's needs, and how she will lure that customer away from the competition."

Akahoshi’s award was based on her class work in the business planning course, MGT 425, where she developed the concept of a user-operated photo booth to be used as a fund raiser for organizations like schools and non-profits. What separates her plan from similar services is its unique pricing model, where the user pays for the photos on the spot and the sponsoring organization receives a percentage of the proceeds. Akahoshi said watching her idea come to life is something to behold.

“I think this is a great opportunity,” Akahoshi said. “It is exciting to see an abstract idea become more concrete every day."

Semi-finalists will make oral presentations of their plans to a second pool of judges on April 24. The top five finalists will be awarded $1,000 Realize Grants and move on to compete at a final event for thousands of dollars in cash and in-kind prizes.

In addition to the Discovery Award, Akahoshi is a two-time recipient of the Hawaiʻi Island Chamber of Commerce Scholarship.

“Kiersten’s accomplishments make all of us at CoBE very proud,” said Dr. Marcia Sakai, dean, College of Business and Economics. “Her success supports our belief that entrepreneurial talent will bloom when given the opportunity.”


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