IN the CNMI’s first ever Supporting Entrepreneurs and Economic Development, or SEED, to Sail Competition, Eddy Jo’s Shrimp Shack took home the Proa Award in the new business category, winning $20,000 in seed money and automatic admission into the soon-to-be-launched Northern Marianas College Incubator Program.
The Proa Award is given to a business that it is well-planted and rooted in its business plans and goals, and is ready to sail to success and contribute to the local economy.
In a two-way tie, AP Solutions LLC dba MPay, MultiStore & Xpress; and Tech 5ive dba Eats Easy topped the existing businesses category, each earning $15,000 in seed money
Eddy Jo’s Shrimp Shack, owned by Donovan Jose Pinaula Castro, is inspired by its owner’s personal experience of a shrimp truck in Hawaii.
Castro graduated from the culinary arts program at the Northern Marianas Trades Institute, and is a recipient of the Anthony Pellegrino’s Student Achievement Award.
Since he was eight years old, Castro dreamt of becoming a chef, and has worked at various hotels on-island before assuming his current role in the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation’s dietary department.
While visiting Hawaii with his family, Castro fell in love with a spicy garlic shrimp plate, and since then, has envisioned going into the shrimp business. He wants to own a shrimp shack and to work with community members and local organizations to revive the local shrimp population.
2 steps ahead of the curve
AP Solutions LLC dba MPay, MultiStore, & Xpress was founded by Perry Inos and Michael Sheu, with a vision to be the leading service partner for their clients by bridging technical gaps to grow innovative and enduring companies.
It strives to be two steps ahead of the curve, and to innovate and transform organizations with digital solutions, technical consulting, and development.
Inos holds a master’s degree in business and accounting from Southern New Hampshire University, and has software certificates as a C++ developer, and is APIPA Audit-trained.
He has over a decade of experience in technology, strategic planning, training, government relations, financial analysis, accounting, project planning, business development, business transformations, international exports, real estate development, and local and federal regulatory, permitting, and licensing support involving projects with a combined value of over $100 million.
Sheu holds a bachelor of business administration in finance from Emory University, and is an experienced entrepreneur with management experience in projects that have a combined value of more than $24.5 million.
He is intimately familiar with regulations, requirements, project management challenges, supply chain and logistics; and workforce mobilization and sustainment in the CNMI.
Tech 5ive dba Eats Easy was founded by Clint Albert.
Having worked with numerous individuals in various market economies, Albert, with his bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management from De La Salle College of St. Benilde, created Eats Easy to not only fill the local market’s need for food delivery service, but to also create jobs.
Eats Easy is also the recipient of the Inayik I Mane’e’ga’, or Viewer’s Choice Award, earning an additional $500.
In the new businesses category, Saipan Studio came in second place, earning $10,000 in seed money, and the Tinanom Award.
“Tinanom” means “to plant” in Chamorro, representing the CNMI Small Business Development Center Network’s initiative to plant roots throughout Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
Saipan Studio is owned by Jiaxin Liang, a wife, mother, and small business owner who moved to Saipan in 2016.
Liang has been dancing and teaching dance since the age of four, and brings to the CNMI her breadth of experience in performing arts and arts education.
She opened the studio in March of this year to brighten the future of so many young women through dance education.
Liang likes to perform and believes in lifelong education and growth.
In third place was 6th Place BBQ which received the Dinneko Award and $5,000 in seed money.
“Dinneko” means “to sprout” in Chamorro.
6th Place BBQ is owned by Raymond Muna, a passionate Chamorro pit master who believes that barbecue brings everyone together in the CNMI.
Muna, the CNMI archivist at Northern Marianas College, plans to produce the best barbecue for the CNMI, blending Texas-style and local-style barbecue.
He is a firm believer that all barbecue must be juicy, moist, and fall off the bone. Barbecue can temporarily solve anyone’s problems, he said.
Stemify and Chasing Sunsets, the two remaining contestants in the category, each received a $500 cash prize.
Stemify is spearheaded by Arnel Gruspe, a long-term resident of the CNMI with extensive experience in computers, information technology, and industrial automation, having worked in various positions, including as a civilian employee at the U.S. Naval facility in Subic Bay.
The business objective of this new business is to teach Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, or STEM, to community members, primarily the youth in the CNMI.
Chasing Sunsets is a family- and locally owned business of Caroline Masga Agulto who hopes to establish a food trailer business in the CNMI that can bring their cuisine from one location to another.
The remaining competitor in the existing businesses category was Jo & Ha Investment LLC dba Plumeria Steakhouse, owned by Steve Jang who won a $1,000 cash prize.
Jang also owns Ete Café, located right next door to Plumeria Steakhouse, on Beach Road in Garapan.
All eight contestants will receive $250 each in media coverage, promotions, and advertisements courtesy of KKMP radio.
The competition’s judges were Paradise Dental Spa co-owner Donna Krum, Tinian SBDC director and business advisor Benjamin “Huk” Borja, Saipan Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kimberly C. Camacho, NMC School of Business faculty member Jamin Dela Cruz, University of Guam School of Business and Public Administration associate professor, master of public administration program director, and Regional Center for Public Policy co-founder and director Dr. John J. Rivera, Bank of the Federated States of Micronesia loans manager Sailicia Nanpei, Joeten Daidai Foundation executive director Patty T. Palacios, and local start-up founder Chris Nelson.
The event was made possible through the combined efforts of the CNMI SBDCN and the UOG Masters of Public Administration Class of 2023 cohort.
“It was an honor to provide a platform for our talented contestants to introduce their innovative pitches at our inaugural SEED to Sail signature event. We are so proud of all of them, but as any business owner knows, the work does not stop. We look forward to continuing to work with them on their new journey to see how far this program takes them,” said CNMI SBDCN Network Director Nadine Deleon Guerrero.
“SEED to Sail drew so much attention within our entrepreneur and business company, that we stay motivated and excited to see where the SBDC takes SEED to Sail in 2023. Congratulations to all of our contestants, and a big ‘thank you’ to all of our sponsors who made this event possible along with the CNMI SBDC,” she added.
The event sponsors are the CNMI Office of the Governor, Saipan Renal Care, Priority Care, Bank of Saipan, IT&E, Tan Siu Lin Foundation, NMC, UOG, KKMP Radio, Turnkey Solutions, Docomo Pacific, D&Q Distributors, WESTCO, and the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers.