ONABEN provides Entrepreneurial Training in Moloka’i, Hawaii!

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Aloha from the beautiful but rainy Moloka’i, Hawaii! Our work took us on quite an adventure this week! It has certainly been one of those weeks in which I can say, there is NEVER a dull moment! But, in true ONABEN fashion, our team made some rather delicious lemonade out of what could have just been lemons!  

We love our work here on this island! The islanders are so embracing and the place itself is nothing less than charming….so similar to many of the Native communities that we work in and every bit as beautiful. As we arrived at the small, local airport, I said out loud, “Home sweet home.” My seven year-old, daughter, who accompanied me on this trip, explained, “This isn’t our home, silly.” But, in many ways it HAS become a home away from home….at least for me. There is something about the way in which we are greeted and accepted by the locals that can only be defined as comforting. 

On this trip, we experienced a whole new level of acceptance. Since the moment we arrived, the islands have been preparing for Hurricane Iselle. When our trip began, I had no idea that we were flying in the midst of such weather, but alas we are committed to the communities that we serve….And, I learned that this community is just as committed to us. We received at least four invitations to stay with those Native to this land, whom can only be defined as our  “island family.” It was heart warming, and confirmed the place that we have as extended members of this community.    

We condensed what would have been a two-day event into one day to ensure that everyone could be home with their families, safe from the storms. It was a flurry of activity and we really didn’t know what to expect. However, our lunch and learn presentation brought in six, brave souls dedicated to the expansion of their businesses! Sue Ann, a lovely lady who has attended EVERY training that we have provided, said the sweetest and most encouraging thing. As our presentation ended and we thanked them for their participation, she said, “I want to thank you all for coming. These workshops are the best entrepreneurial trainings I have ever attended. They are relevant and make sense to our needs on the island.” That may not seem like a big deal, but trust me, it was! With every training that we plan in each of our three ANA funded sites, we work hard to ensure that the information provided is unique to that community and its entrepreneurs. And, let me tell you, it’s not always easy! Providing the best products and services possible to the people that we serve is a task that our entire ONABEN team takes very seriously and very personally. That simple statement was the pat on the back that we needed to weather the storm that would come later in the evening…literally.  


As much as I loved our training event and our team’s ability to adapt with the necessary changes, my favorite part of the trip was seeing the progress that one of the local entrepreneurs has made toward his dream of opening his own business! Thursday morning, before our training began, I visited with Gene, a local chef that first attended our training last year. When I first met Gene, he had only an idea. And, now just one year later, he owns a food truck! Best part? Jennifer Hawkins, our local partner, and I were his first customers! I literally got chill bumps when we pulled into his driveway and saw his truck with a surfboard propped up beside it, advertising his “special” for the day! How rewarding it is to see the dreams of an aspiring entrepreneur come to fruition! That’s what this work is all about!  

As I am sure you have come to know, every community is special to us, and every entrepreneur is important. Our work is often tiring, but ALWAYS rewarding. Stay tuned for ALL that is to come and for more updates on our work in Moloka’i, and all of the other communities we work with across Indian Country! Wado and “talk” soon, V.

Michael Bridges

Michael Bridges

Michael is a proud U.S. Army Veteran and a member of the Cherokee Nation. With 10 years of service as an Infantryman, Michael implements the core values of integrity, honor, and selfless service into his leadership of the company. With over 20 years of experience, Michael began working with building websites and graphic design in 1998. A family-oriented man, Michael enjoys spending time with his wife Kristina and their three children. He is a proud and active member of Jenks Lodge #497 A.F. & A.M. and an advisor for the Order of DeMolay.