Woman-owned business gets $250,000 loan from Hawaii Office of Affairs: Maui Now

Flavors of Italy, a Native Hawaiian woman-owned business, has received a $250,000 Hua Kanu loan through the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ Mālama Loans program.

Desiree Kanae Loperfido is a beneficiary of the Hawaii Department of Homeland, and her husband, chef Donato Loperfido, runs the business of importing and distributing alcohol and specializing in a variety of wines and cheeses.

A loan signing ceremony was held in September. 26 At First Foundation, OHA’s financial lending partner, at Kaka Ako.

Aikūʻē Kalima, Mālama Loans manager at OHA, said: “What made Flavours of Italy the best candidate for this loan was the strength of their business, which has been in operation since 2005. “Desiree and Donato have direct links to Italy, This enables businesses to import and distribute products in a competitive manner.”

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Flavours of Italy in Honolulu supplies local restaurants, hotels like the Four Seasons Hotel, and grocery stores like Foodland and Whole Foods Market. The company has grown from humble beginnings in 2005 importing just one pallet of goods to where they currently import 8 to 10 containers of wine and cheese a year.

Desiree Loperfido said the company will use the loan funds to expand its business by building inventory and buying additional equipment. The business is also expected to start producing cheeses like fresh mozzarella, eliminating shipping and shipping costs and making Hawaii more sustainable.

Born and raised on the Nānākuli homestead, Loperfido said she attended training years ago on how to apply for a Mālama loan and remembered the OHA scheme as they sought to build their business.

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“I talked to my husband and we decided to contact OHA to see if they could help us because we needed extra money to expand our business,” she said. “The rates are great and we are so grateful for what OHA and its Mālama Loans program are doing for the Hawaiian community. We appreciate your help as we really need it.”

Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey, chairman of OHA’s board of directors, said one of the agency’s strategic goals is to increase the number of business loans to Hawaii Department of Land beneficiaries interested in starting a new business or providing working capital for existing business owners.

“We’re trying to help these beneficiaries by improving their financial capacity and building economic self-sufficiency, and the business loan to Italian-flavored companies is a good example of this work,” said Lindsay.

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OHA’s Hua Kanu Business Loans provide high-quality business owners with low-interest 7-year loans ranging from $150,000 to $1 million, while Mālama Business Loans target startups and small businesses with loans ranging from $2,500 to $149,999 .

Mālama Mahi ʻAi Agriculture, Mālama Home Improvement, Mālama Debt Consolidation and Mālama Education are the other OHA programmes that make up the Mālama Loans programme.

OHA’s Mālama Loans program leverages federal funding streams provided by the Native American Administration and provides federal funds locally to Hawaiians to expand their businesses, improve their homes and help pay for education.

Learn more about OHA loans at oha.org/loans or call 808-594-1924.

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