Monday, January 8, 2001
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Posted on: Monday, January 8, 2001

Waialua community kitchen workshop planned

By Tino Ramirez
Advertiser North Shore Bureau

WAIALUA — Supporters of establishing a community kitchen to Waialua are promoting a workshop being organized this month to help entrepreneurs think through their businesses and create plans they’ll need to apply for loans.

The two-part workshop is being offered by the Hawaii Small Business Development Center. It will help entrepreneurs who would use the kitchen make the step from catering, baking pastries and cooking for lunch wagons at home, said Sharon Matatino, a Waialua attorney who is donating her time to the projects.

The idea is that the kitchen, which would be certified by the state, would offer facilities for entrepreneurs who are trying to start food businesses. The idea is that a caterer, for example, could use the kitchen instead of having to invest in kitchen equipment. And local growers would be able to use the facility’s refrigerated storage space.

"This is for people who want to take the next step and get loans and training so they can grow their business," said Matatino. "Because the demand for them in the community is growing, the kitchen will give them a facility where they can time-share and do more." Waialua’s economic development has been one of the community’s greatest concerns since Waialua Sugar Plantation closed in 1996 after nearly a century as the town’s largest employer.

A community kitchen has been discussed for several years and the project is in the last phase of acquiring $100,000 from Rural Economic Transition Assistance-Hawaii, a federal project created to help former sugar plantation workers go into business for themselves.

A kitchen site is available at the plantation’s former sugar mill and partner groups from the community are being sought to demonstrate a need and feasibility, she said.

One partner is the 70-member Waialua Farmers Cooperative. In the past four years, its efforts to grow diversified crops have helped fill gaps in employment left by the plantation’s closing. One of the kitchen’s features, a walk-in cooler, will help make distributing produce more efficient for growers, said cooperative president Jeanne Vana, who is working with Matatino on the kitchen.

While more and better crops are being grown, they are harvested, packed and delivered the same day, she said. "The cooler will increase our capacity to accommodate their increased volume. With the cooler, they can hold over products for three days or in some cases, like pumpkins, for a month," said Vana. "That will help them not flood the market with produce and manage fluctuations in supply and pricing."

The farmers will also grow produce for the kitchen’s users and the cooperative is looking at what crops may be requested, she said.

While the center’s business planning workshop is usually held quarterly in Honolulu, it is offered in neighborhoods when another group acts as co-sponsor, said Laura Noda, director the center’s Oahu office. A federal agency, the center has worked with a broad range of businesses in Hawaii over the past 10 years, focusing on individual consultations, she said.

A plan is required by lenders considering making a loan to a new business, she said. The workshop’s first day will cover the business, its market, marketing strategies, an analysis of competition and its management team. The second goes over projections of costs and sales.

"Basically, it’s a way to look at all aspects of business before you launch," said Noda, "and it helps direct them in the type of research they need to do as they prepare. We like to offer the basic information in the workshop and also meet the attendees one-on-one if they’re interested to walk them through the process." While several dates this month are available, one won’t be definite until at least 10 people are committed to taking it, said Matatino. Although the workshop has not been publicized, she has spoken to several residents who want to take it, she said.

For more information, to sign up or find out if a date has been set, call Matatino at 637-9999. To inquire about using the kitchen, call the cooperative at 637-2786.

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