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PHOTOS: Hirono Hosts Roundtable with U.S. Trade Representative and Hawaii Small Business Owners

~ A link to download photos of the roundtable is available here ~

HONOLULU, HI – U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai held a roundtable discussion with Hawaii resource partners and local business owners. The business owners discussed the challenges they have faced in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and inquired about opportunities to expand their reach to overseas markets through federally funded programs, such as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) State Trade Expansion Program (STEP).

“Millions of jobs in our country can be attributed to small businesses, which is why it is crucial that our trade policies support efforts made by our locally-owned businesses to export their products to consumers around the world,” said Senator Hirono. “I appreciated hearing from these business owners and other members of our community about the importance of export development and broadening the reach of local small businesses beyond our islands. I’ll continue working with Ambassador Tai and other state, local, and federal partners to expand opportunities for Hawaii’s local businesses.”

“I’m very inspired by the creativity and resilience of the small business owners that Senator Hirono and I had the opportunity to meet with in Honolulu,” said Ambassador Katherine Tai. “Their passion and resourcefulness demonstrate why small businesses are the lifeblood of every community. This roundtable provided an invaluable opportunity to learn from the insights these business owners shared from their experiences starting up, navigating the challenges and opportunities of the pandemic years, and how they seek to incorporate the culture of Hawaii into their products – lessons important to implementing economic and trade policies that build our economy from the middle out and bottom up.”

Senator Hirono and Ambassador Tai heard from each business about their experience operating in a diverse state like Hawaii and the importance of e-commerce sales for growing businesses. The roundtable included representatives from YWCA Oahu; Hawaii Small Business Development Center Network (Hawaii SBDC); Hawaii State Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT); and INNOVATE Hawaii.

Roundtable participants included Colleen McAluney, Director of YWCA Oahu’s Patsy T. Mink Center for Business and Leadership (MCBL); Noriko Namiki, CEO of YWCA Oahu; Joe Burns, State Director of Hawaii Small Business Development Center Network (Hawaii SBDC); Wayne Layugan, Project Engineer at Hawaii Technology Development Corporation; Mary Dale, Economic Development Specialist at U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Hawaii District Office; Jamie Lum, Business Development Program Manager at Hawaii State Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT); Alice Kim, Founder of Hanalei Beauty Co. LLC; Byron Goo, Co-founder of Tea Chest Hawaii; Kea Peters, Owner and Illustrator of Kakou Collective; and James Chan, Owner and General Manager of Hawaiian Chip Company.

A link to download photos of the roundtable is available here.