Mermaid Mushrooms, a Kailua-Kona company developing a business producing gourmet mushrooms for local consumption, was awarded the $25,000 HIplan 2020 Grand Prize on Saturday.
Mermaid Mushrooms, one of eight enterprises competing in the Hawaii Island Business Plan Competition, took the $25,000 HIplan Grand Prize, following the HIplan Finals held online via Zoom on Saturday.
Amanda Gilroy, the entrepreneur behind Mermaid Mushrooms, stood out among the other finalists, in the contest “designed to stimulate development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem on Hawaii Island,” organizers say.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Gilroy after her win.
“My business plan is to grow gourmet mushrooms for local consumption,” Gilroy said. “I’m thrilled to get this boost.”
“Our winner clearly is helping to meet a need on our island that would transform the way that we consume, how we relate to our food, on island,” said Meli James, one of the competition judges. “I think that was pretty outstanding.”
HIplan 2020 Finals judges were: Leanne Okamoto, Kamehameha Schools; Meli James, Mana Up; Steve Sakoman, Sakoman Inc.; Ashley McShane, Blue Startups; and Pam Chasuta Anukoolthamachote, Elemental Excelerator.
The HIplan competition is conducted in three rounds.
Round 1 required submission of a 7-page business plan based on the HIplan template. The plans were reviewed by a team of judges and the top 15 plans moved forward to Round 2, which involved a 7-minute live presentation before judges. The top eight plans moved on to the third and final round. HIplan’s Hawaii Island Business Competition finals are free to attend and open to the public. It is sponsored by Kamehameha Schools, the Edmund C. Olson Trust II, Hawaii Community College, Ulupono Initiative and the County of Hawaii.
This year’s finalists included Hilo Food Hub, Island Harvest, Tea Hawaii &Company, Novapath Bio, Ku-A-Kanaka, Upcycle Hawaii and Ohana Goods.
Amanda Gilroy also won a one-year tuition scholarship from Hawaii Community College.
“The process is really what’s special,” said organizer Jim Wyban. “They learn how to organize their thoughts into a coherent business plan, with a lot of feedback from us. Then, in practice sessions, they learn how to communicate clearly. I’ve seen people who have gone from barely able to talk about their business, to get up here and give a two-minute pitch that just knock your socks off.”