Tupu Cane Juice, Kumoi Farms, Tasi to Table, El Bishu, and Stemify CNMI were awarded $5,000 each by Bank of Hawaii through its Kinometi Para I Kumunidåt I Islå-ta - Small Business Revitalization and Development Grant program. The program is designed to provide financial assistance and resources to small businesses that have demonstrated exceptional potential and a commitment to making a positive impact amongst other small businesses and encourage new businesses to emerge.
Out of 82 applicants, the selection process led by the Bank rigorously evaluated and ultimately chose five companies. The evaluation criteria included factors such as business viability, innovation, and community engagement. Additionally, all grant applicants were required to participate in a seminar conducted by the CNMI Small Business Development Center at Northern Marianas College.
Rose Sumor, Vice President and Branch Manager for Bank of Hawaii CNMI, is excited for the growing interest of the grant program within the community and hopes to further spread its intent and goal for the grant.
“Every year we aim to see small businesses grow and thrive and revitalize our economy in their unique ways, and in return, bettering the lives of our community through their products and services,” Sumor said.\
The grant program was met with an overwhelming response from businesses across various sectors. The diversity of industries represented by the grant recipients highlights the vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem present in our community. The recipients represented the industries of livestock & agriculture, localized & organic beverages, women-owned confectionery products, education services in sustainable lifestyles, and robotics & automation.
Cameron Atalig, the owner of Tupu Cane Juice, keeps the business decisions grounded by family and intends to utilize their newly acquired capital to support the community.
“Firstly, we would need to discuss as a family on how to use the grant money, but one thing for sure is that we want to be involved and support community projects,” Atalig said. “We’ve previously participated with the CNMI Youth Congress by giving out free beverages for their Summer Sports Blitz program. At the time, we didn’t have enough capital to match the demand. This grant will allow us to have the funds to support more projects that benefit the community without having to fall short on our resources.”
Simon Deleon Guerrero, the owner of Kumoi Farms, intends to support other businesses by providing certified, packaged, and locally sourced pork products.
“We are producers of pork meat,” Deleon Guerrero said. “This award supports our plan to obtain U.S. Department of Agriculture certification for processing and packaging. Currently, our piggery is USDA approved for operations but we want to expand in order to provide fresh pork products to local small businesses and restaurants to promote fresh and healthy food.”
Gene Weaver, owner of Tasi to Table, Inc., shared his vision on how his business aims at elevating the experience and culture of fishing to the youth.
“We’re giving our youth life skills that can be passed down from generation to generation,” Weaver said. “These skills aren’t taught in the education system and it also goes beyond teaching them how to fish. We also aim to teach them how to preserve our waters and our land.”
"Gratitude knows no bounds as we thank the Bank of Hawaii for their generous small business grant," Stemify CNMI owner Arnel Gruspe said. "With their support, we're not only investing in our business, but also in the future of the CNMI's youth through robotics and automation training. Together, we're shaping a brighter tomorrow."
El Bishu Co-owner Cassandra Deleon Guerrero expressed her business' plans for the future, "This will help us expand and be fully operational and just to do better things."
"It is community over competition, we're aiming to be a value added product company to grow locally, and to inspire other small businesses so that we can provide products that are from the CNMI,” Deleon Guerrero added.
Nadine Deleon Guerrero, the CNMI SBDC Network Director, applauded the grant recipients and is eager for the CNMI SBDC to continue to provide assistance for the recipients and all small businesses.
"For every ten businesses that walk through our doors, nine out of ten will tell you their biggest barrier in entrepreneurship is access to capital,” Deleon Guerrero said. “It is our hope that what you do for the five businesses we’re about to award today not only leads the charge in our community with setting a great example of what banking institutions can do to give back to our small businesses, but more importantly, that the grants you provide, truly make an impact in their businesses, their livelihood and however small it may seem, our economy."
This grant program reflects Bank of Hawaii's ongoing commitment to nurturing emerging businesses and fostering an environment of collaboration and growth. By supporting these businesses, Bank of Hawaii hopes to contribute to the long-term sustainability and success of the local economy.
The CNMI SBDC Network promotes a business-friendly economic infrastructure in the community, builds entrepreneurial capacity and financial literacy within that community, and provides current and nascent small businesses with the technical assistance, counseling, training, and support they need to innovate, adapt, and grow.