Past Winners

2016 Winner

winner-imageNOVEMBER 6, 2016



Ono Queens, of Pahoa, won $25,000 to help grow its business of raising queen bees. The prize, awarded November 5, came from HIplan, a local hui organized to help Hawaii Island entrepreneurs develop and implement successful business plans. Ono Queens ( is owned and operated by third-generation beekeeper Chris Klepps and his wife Wendy, whose business plan focused on producing top-quality queens and selling them to beekeepers on the Mainland. As Chris explained: “There is a never-ending demand for new queen bees.”

The HIplan competition began in September, with 49 business owners submitting draft plans. In October, after quarter- and semi-final rounds of judging, eight of them were named finalists. Those eight were required to submit a polished business plan, make a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation based on it, and deliver a two-minute oral summary – a so-called “elevator pitch” – all typical of what entrepreneurs have to do when seeking venture capital. Each of these components was scored numerically by the judges, and Ono Queens garnered the highest total points. The judges in this final round were Murray Clay, Managing Partner of the Ulupono Initiative; Jared Kushi, Program Director of Blue Startups; Howard Dicus, TV and Radio Business News Reporter; and Chuck Erskine, Hilo-based Vice President of First Hawaiian Bank. The contestants’ scores were tabulated and reported by CPA Greg Taketa, of Taketa Iwata & Hara.

“All in all, these eight presentations were uniformly strong and well delivered,” said judge Clay, “and the quality of presentations far exceeded my expectations.” Judge Kushi said he was “super impressed,” with the finalists’ plans. And judge Dicus said: “Big Island folks should be very proud of their entrepreneurs.”

HIplan is hosted by UH-Hilo, and sponsored by the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce. The co-chairs, originators and organizers of the project are aquaculture entrepreneur Jim Wyban and Realtor Kelly Moran, President of Hilo Brokers. “Our goal,” said Moran, “is to stimulate an entrepreneurial ecosystem here on Hawaii Island.” Wyban said that all the finalists’ tallied scores were close, but that, in the end, the two-minute pitch from Ono Queens outscored those of the other contestants. In second-place was Hawaii Family Health, in Hilo, a medical practice headed by Michelle Mitchell, MD; and in third place came Big Island Wasabi, an agricultural enterprise in Kona led by Sara Philipps and Trevor La Torre-Couch.

A second HIplan competition will be held in 2017 because, “There are too few ‘bridges’ between the island’s business community and the university,” said Moran. “So often, university graduates cannot find work here; so we want to expand their opportunities.” And Wyban noted, “The business communities of East and West Hawaii tend to be separate, so we feel that the Hiplan enterprise has stimulated collaboration. The Silicon Valley experience shows that networking is the ‘secret sauce’ of successful places.”

For more information, go to; or contact Jim Wyban: 808-938-2840;

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