There is a movement afoot across the county to help small businesses start and grow. It has arrived on Maui in a small way and is growing based on COMMUNITY - like Techhui, Springboard and other online spaces as well as meat space. Some have called it a DIY Movement (do it yourself) but I prefer to emphasize the Community aspect and refer to it as DIWO - Do It With Others (link to Forbes.com blog)
DIWO Community builds from a meeting space (sometimes online, but face2face is more powerful). A Makerspace goes beyond simple meetup and offers tools and classes. It offers the chance for people to gather and share ideas, AND tools to make them. Generally the tools include both conventional wood/metal/electronics and 21st century computer controlled equipment like 3D Printers, Laser Cutters, CNC routers, etc. There are over 500 makerspaces across the USA - all autonomous and different. They generally offer at least one day of public access and often have public classes (for a fee). MauiMakers is our local makerspace - back behind the sugar mill by Maui Friends of Library in Pu'unene.... and equally inconvenient location for most residents.
CoWorking spaces offer shared business infrastructure - network, desk space, phones, printers, etc. - for a small fee. These can be a good alternative to working at home. It helps establish a separation of the two (a very healthy thing). CoWorking can also be useful for people on travel who need a business space for a day or week. Hotels generally offer a business center for guests, but what of the short-term rental visitors? Maui does not have much of a co-working space just now, although there has been a lot of discussion. One issue is the location. Maui's population is scattered and it often takes 1/2hour+ to get from pop-center to pop-center. A Kihei based co-working space would be great for the folks on the south-east coast, but is probably a non-starter for north shore, upcountry, or west island folks. Maybe we need several small ones?
Business Incubators and Accelerators are a hot topic. There is a (possibly well funded) drive to get one established here on Maui. (see some of the writeups about MaiTai Kitesurfing Event) What this means depends on who you are talking to. Our neighbors over on Oahu's AlohaStartups.com have a good article on the difference between an Accelerator and other approaches. Basically Incubators help taking idea to startup stage. Accelerators take startups to successful companies. Both are/should be available by application/selection process.
Some of the concepts for these incubator/accelerator projects on Maui are aimed NOT at local startups but at attracting long term visitors. The idea is for the startup company (or subset of core people) to come to Maui for a few months of intensive training, development and coaching to get their business going. Then they go back to their homes and make a successful company. This brings in more business for the Visitor Industry (hotels, restaurants, activities, etc), however this by itself does not greatly increase the success of Maui County.
The Maui Business Accelerator must accomodate a significant number of Maui based businesses... and it should not be exclusively focused on software businesses (as so many mainland ones are).
Anyway... the movement is here and its time to get involved and Do It With Others!
In Kaka'ako on Oahu the Green House Innovation Hub is successfully helping small businesses launch out of there. Maybe a discussion with them would be beneficial too, its a wide range of businesses not just software or web/apps etc. http://www.higreenhouse.com/ I visited them, great people and space. If I go to Oahu for an extended trip, that's where I'll be working from.
I am finally back from Los Angeles and starting a web-based film distribution company on Maui. While in L.A. i was very intrigued with the concept of Accelerators. These have an application process and take the best ideas and teams into a 90-day apprenticeship where they work really hard (12-14 hour days) and are supplied with $20-60,000 startup capital, co-working space and mentors. In return they give 5-10% of their stock and allow the mentors first access to investment offerings. L.A. has 10-20 of these, with new ones coming online all the time. I saw one on Hollywood Blvd. that specializes in media companies. The hope of the investors is that one of these companies makes it really big and gives a phenomenal return.
Interesting article ("Startup Accelerator Fail: Most Graduates Go Nowhere") about how most accelerators do not spawn successful businesses... then again most small biz will fail. Some points from the article:
One problem I have is the criterion for success.. it is NOT an operating business in 1 year, it is 'did they get VC funding'
So my question for people talking about accelerators/incubators is:
Do you want to create businesses that contribute to Hawaii over the years
or do you want VC funding/lost equity and a 6mo-2year Exit Strategy