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Amanda Gilroy poses with a musrhoom

Hawai‘i CC student wins $25k grand prize in business competition

A Hawai‘i Community College student is the $25,000 grand prize winner of a local business plan competition.

Amanda Gilroy, an entrepreneur behind Mermaid Mushrooms and a Natural Science student at the Hawai‘i CC - Pālamanui campus in Kona, was named the winner of the HIplan Hawai’i Island Business Plan Competition on October 24.

“I still can’t believe it,” Gilroy said after her win.

As a Hawai‘i CC student, she also won the student category and the one-year free tuition prize.

Gilroy will use her winnings to support her plan to grow gourmet mushrooms for local consumption. “I’m thrilled to get this boost,” she said. 

The HIplan competition began in 2016 and was held virtually this year due to the pandemic. The competition was conducted in three rounds, beginning with the submission of a business plan. Contestants with the top 15 plans advanced to the second round, which involved a seven-minute live presentation before judges.  Eight competitors moved onto the final round.

Hawai‘i CC students participate each year, and the student winner is awarded a tuition scholarship. Gilroy is the first student to make it past round one.

“Our winner clearly is helping to meet a need on our island that would transform the way that we consume, how we relate to our food, on Island,” said Meli James, one of the competition judges. “I think that was pretty outstanding.”

HIplan 2020 finals judges were Leanne Okamoto, Kamehameha Schools; Meli James, Mana Up; Steve Sakoman, Sakoman Inc.; Ashley McShane, Blue Startups; and Pam Chasuta Anukoolthamachote, Elemental Excelerator.

“The process is really what’s special,” said HIplan organizer Jim Wyban. “They learn how to organize their thoughts into a coherent business plan, with a lot of feedback from us. Then, in practice sessions, they learn how to communicate clearly. I’ve seen people who have gone from barely able to talk about their business, to get up here and give a two-minute pitch that just knocks your socks off.”

The HIplan competition is sponsored by Kamehameha Schools, the Edmund C. Olson Trust II, Hawai‘i Community College, Ulupono Initiative, and the County of Hawai‘i.