About the Hawaii Business Pivot Program

Has your business had to pivot due to COVID-19? 


THE HAWAII BUSINESS PIVOT GRANT PROGRAM is designed to help businesses adjust to marketplace changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Hawaii Business Pivot Grant program consists of three major components:

  1. Grant provides reimbursements of up to $10,000.
  2. Technical assistance, workshops, training and consultant resources to support businesses adjusting their operations.
  3. Online marketplace for businesses to access products and services to assist them in transforming their operations; costs incurred may be eligible for reimbursement under the grant program.

Funded by the CARES Act, the program distribute $25M in financial and training support to struggling small businesses in Hawaii to help them adjust to marketplace changes resulting from COVID 19 pandemic. 

The program will provide approximately 2,500 small businesses with reimbursement grants to cover expenses up to $10,000 that they incurred implementing changes to their operations, products and services.

The Hawaii Business Pivot Program is a State of Hawaii program created in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii

What Defines a Pivot? 

Part of the grant application will include categorizing each submitted expense as part of your pivot. Applicants will need to select one of the following categories or other (submissions categorized as other will increase review time):

New Product or Service 

A “new” product or service is one that materially did not exist prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.  While “materially” is a subjective term, the intent is what matters.  The general guide is whether or not a repeat customer who was familiar with the full product or service offerings of the business would consider the product or service something they had not seen previously.  For example, a restaurant owner or operator who added a new take-out convenience-oriented menu item as a result of the increased demand for such an item during the pandemic would be an example of a new product or service.  

New Market (Geographic or Customer Segment):

A “new” market can either be defined as a geography or customer segment that the business did not reach prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This involves the business using new channels to reach customers who were not previously part of the business’ customer base prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This may include redefining or expanding a customer target market or creating customer profiles to better refine the messaging of how an existing product or service meets the needs of that target market or customer profile.  For example, a producer of a locally-produced consumer product primarily sold items at the Farmer’s Market and local retail stores expands to the mainland (geographic). 

New Marketing & Sales Channel

To reach a new market the business often uses a new Marketing & Sales Channel.  This refers to the means by which the business reaches its target market.  For example, a consumer-packaged goods company based in Hawaii creates a new e-Commerce website or joins the Amazon Marketplace to sell its existing products or services online to the U.S. mainland or globally whereas prior to the COVID-19 pandemic the company’s market was almost entirely in-bound tourists to Hawaii and Hawaii residents. 

Re-Branding or Re-Positioning an Existing Product or Service

A re-brand or re-positioning is a strategy to differentiate the business’ product or service or the entire business itself from its competition.  This “pivot” usually occurs when the business is attempting to greater clarity and awareness of the uniqueness of its solution.  For example, in 1991 when “Kentucky Fried Chicken” rebranded itself to “KFC” this was a strategic “pivot” to remove “fried” from its brand amidst a growing market of health-conscious consumers; it was the same 11 herbs & spices recipe and cooking method, but the brand and positioning in the mind of consumers is what the company was after. 

Physical Distancing Measures

Expenses incurred Oct. 1, 2020 or later

Process Improvement, Automation & Re-Training

Another type of “pivot” involves substantial changes to operational processes as a means to lower the cost structure of the business, often with the increased capacity to scale.  This may include a change in resource inputs, process automation, process improvements, or policy & process documentation to transfer business functions to lower cost staff members or outsourcing entirely.  For example, a business with expenses related to outsourcing non-strategic business functions such as Accounting/Bookkeeping or Payroll can be said to have “pivoted” to free-up valuable owner capacity to strategic endeavors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This may also involve re-training staff to meet the new operational changes implemented.  For example, a business invests in a Technical Assistance program to train and educate staff on how to create and maintain Facebook & Instagram ads as part of its new social media program.