Kea Peters, a Native Hawaiian illustrator and designer, was on the last flight from California to Honolulu before the pandemic basically shut down travel in March 2020. Over the next 14 days, quarantined in her room, she thought of all the people feeling the same sense of isolation and decided to take her creativity online.
She filmed live tutorials on Instagram, teaching viewers how to draw native plants, create letterheads and put together do-it-yourself crafts. By the end of the year, she had started a business called the Kakou Collective.
Peters grew her social media following from a few hundred to 10,000 in nine months as she began selling her native plant-inspired stickers, stationary and washi tape online — eventually joining the Mana Up business accelerator program in 2021.
“As my following grew, I learned that people really want to feel connected to Hawaii and they need a place to express themselves,” Peters said. “This community is a really cool way to just allow people to express what they want to in an artful way.”
Now, she’s decided to take part in a new program, Hawaii Rising, a collaboration between Mana Up and Shopify Inc., the second largest e-commerce platform behind Amazon.
The eight-month-long program launched in February and allows self-identifying Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and any other Indigenous entrepreneurs to get their product, service or conceptual business up and running on the Shopify platform.
Mana Up co-founder Meli James said that innovation was essential for businesses during the pandemic since they had to learn new ways to reach consumers when the number of tourists plummeted.
“As we look to diversify our economy, we’re looking to create opportunities that are not so tied to tourism,” she said.