Flavors of Italy, a Hawaiian woman-owned business, secured a $250,000 Hua Kanu loan through the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ Mālama Loans program.
Department of Hawaiian Home Lands recipient Desiree Kanae Loperfido and her husband, chef Donato Loperfido, operate the business that imports and distributes liquor and specializes in a wide range of wines and cheeses.
A loan signing ceremony was held on September 26 at the First Foundation, the OHA’s funding partner, in Kakaʻako.
“What makes Flavors of Italy such a good fit for this loan is the strength of their business which has been in business since 2005,” said Aikūʻē Kalima, OHA Mālama Loans Manager. “Desiree and Donato have direct ties to Italy, which allows the company to import and distribute products competitively.”
Flavors of Italy, located in Honolulu, supplies its products to local restaurants, hotels such as the Four Seasons and grocery stores such as Foodland and Whole Foods Market. The business has grown from its humble beginnings in 2005, when it imported just one pallet of goods, to today, where it currently imports eight to ten containers of wine and cheese each year. .
Desiree Loperfido said the company will use the loan funds to expand its business by building inventory and purchasing additional equipment. The company should also start making cheeses such as fresh mozzarella, eliminating transportation and shipping costs and making Hawaiʻi more sustainable.
Loperfido, born and raised on a Nānākuli farm, said she took training on how to apply for a Mālama loan years ago and remembered the OHA program when they were looking to start their business.
“I spoke with my husband and we decided to contact the OHA and see if they could help us because we need that extra money to grow our business,” she said. “Interest rates are excellent and we very much appreciate what the OHA and its Mālama loan program are doing for the Hawaiian community. We are grateful for the help, because we really needed it.
OHA Board Chair Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey said one of the agency’s strategic goals is to increase the number of business loans to Department of Hawaiian Home Lands recipients who want to start a new business or provide working capital to existing business owners.
“We try to help these beneficiaries by increasing their financial capacities and strengthening their economic autonomy, and this commercial loan to Flavors of Italy is a great example of this work,” said Lindsey.
OHA’s Hua Kanu Business Loans offer highly qualified business owners seven-year, low-interest loans ranging from $150,000 to $1 million, while Mālama Business Loans target startups and small businesses with loans from $2,500 to $149,999.
Mālama Mahi ʻAi Agriculture, Mālama Home Improvement, Mālama Debt Consolidation, and Mālama Education are the other OHA programs that make up the Mālama loan program.
The OHA’s Mālama Loans program taps into a stream of federal funding available through the Administration for Native Americans and makes federal funds available locally to Hawaiians to expand their businesses, improve their homes and help pay for school fees. education.
To learn more about OHA loans, go to oha.org/loans or call 808-594-1924.