Local entrepreneurs and artists who have participated in Guam Unique Merchandise and Art’s Business Training and Mentorship program are ready to take the next step in their journey as business owners.
With a focus on aspiring local entrepreneurs, the program is run in partnership with the Pacific Islands Small Business Development Center Training and Mentoring Program as part of a 16-week training course. Twenty participants representing 13 companies pitched their final business concepts at the program’s ninth annual graduation ceremony Saturday at the University of Guam.
“We celebrate their dedication and hard work and look forward to helping incubate their small businesses as part of our ongoing efforts to grow our economy locally,” said Monica Guzman, executive director of Guam Unique Merchandise and Art. .
“I decided to join GUMA because I needed more training on how to run my business more effectively and efficiently,” said Alissa Eclavea, graduate, founder of Rikohi, a company that sells bags handmade fabrics, tablecloths and other items.
She said she learned valuable skills, such as creating a brand with a name that accurately reflects her mission and purpose: to raise awareness and educate the community about a rare skin condition affecting her son, Kingsley Topasna, called epidermolysis bullosa.
Eclavea chose the name Rikohi, which means “gather” in Chamoru. The brand name was a way to honor his heritage.
Ron Guerrero said he decided to be part of the program to market and sell a signature dinanche he created with his wife, which is made and sold at their restaurant, Imari, located in the village of CHamoru.
“It’s overwhelming, but I’m so glad we graduated,” Guerrero said, adding that the training and mentorship helped find more retail vendors to carry the product.
Since 2013, the Guam Unique Merchandise and Art program has provided entrepreneurial training and mentorship to more than 220 artists and entrepreneurs and helped more than 30 local businesses receive the incubator funding needed to launch their products and services.
Starting in August, graduates of the program will have the opportunity to become incubated companies and receive funding by entering a “Shark Tank-style” competition, said GUMA training consultant Lorraine Okada.
During the competition, a panel of judges, organized by the GUMA program, will evaluate the business models and profitability of the participants’ products.
Guerrero and Eclavea said they were eager to enter their companies into the competition.
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