Busy entrepreneur Monica Bogar gets boost from Maui Accelerator Program
WEST MAUI – Monica (Cajudoy) Bogar is a West Side success story; and, enfolding the community into her triumph, she said, “Everybody wins.”
The 38-year-old mother of two (Lahainaluna High School Class of ’96) recently completed an eight-week intensive course at the University of Hawaii Maui College, the Maui Accelerator Program. And, after a pitch presentation to a panel of judges, she took home a $5,000 check.
“Our Maui Accelerator Program (MAP) is the first food-industry business accelerator program of its kind. MAP participants will receive training in food safety, good manufacturing practices, industry trends, business planning, marketing, nutritional analysis, packaging, financing for food business and export regulations,” the MAP application reads.
“The Maui Accelerator Program just started,” instructor Refugio Gonzales told the Lahaina News.
With grants from the U.S. Small Business Administration and the County of Maui, Gonzales added, “we were able to deliver two cohorts, with 12 students each.”
There were three winners in each cohort. Bogar participated in the second class of “startup food entrepreneurs.”
“Only eight finished,” she said.
“During the class,” Gonzales said, “she was able to identify who her customers were, the value proposition she was delivering, how she was going to deliver it and distribution and then finally she was able to present a pitch, showing a local Maui business startup needing fusion cash for production and manufacturing, and she was an ultimate winner of one of the $5,000 prizes.”
Her product was kimchi, a tradition in her family.
“I was always intrigued with making kimchi. I learned from my mom and my aunt. We would go to my aunt’s house in Kihei. Their thing was to make kimchi from all my aunt’s homegrown and my mom’s homegrown. They would sit on the floor all night, and they would make kimchi – prepping, washing, harvesting; it was just a thing.”
Entrepreneurship is in her blood.
Bogar described her mom, Songcha Cajudoy, as a “serial entrepreneur.”
She was owner-operator of Song’s Kitchen at The Wharf Cinema Center and a number of other gift stores.
“She has owned every type of business everywhere, even in Bali; she’s amazing,” Bogar described.
“I was raised in the shops and restaurants. From school, Kam III (King Kamehameha III Elementary), I would walk over to the Wharf (with her siblings) and wait ’til mom got off at 9:30 and come home and do it all over the next day.”
Her father, Lorenzo Cajudoy, passed away in 2004. He was a livestock farmer and worked in Kapalua, “like forever,” she said.
Bogar inherited the property on Hui F Road from him and has been operating a small business from that location with her husband, Thomas K. Bogar, since their son, Maddox, was born five years ago.
She is a self-taught microgreen, lilikoi, edible flower, wheatgrass farmer, growing aquaponically and vertically on their 7,500-square-foot property.
At one time she serviced 15 restaurants, delivering product three days a week. She has recently scaled back to five restaurants.
“I only deliver once a week. Because my microgreens are so fresh, and they’re cut the same day of delivery and handled with so much care, they are able to last up to ten days,” she explained.
Jojo Vasquez, the executive chef at the Plantation House in Kapalua, is one of her strongest advocates.
He described their first encounter: “During the 2013 Maui County Agricultural Festival, a vibrant young lady dressed in her Napili Flo camouflage came up to my booth and asked me where I got my microgreens from and then told me that hers are better. I loved her boldness and was very interested in sampling her organically harvested herbs from the neighborhood of Napili.
“I was so impressed with her studious efforts to build her aquaponic arrangements in her back yard. Through trial and error, Monica and her husband, Tom, constructed their microherb farm.”
“There are so many special attributes that I love about her,” Vasquez observed. “She is so kind, thoughtful, caring, proud and creative. And her creativity doesn’t stop at farming! In the time that we have been together, I have seen Monica touch so many hobbies that spark her interest, like custom bags and home furnishings, both of which are in line with her company of recycling to create eco-friendly products,” including a line of recycled wine bottles, individually cut and polished.
The public can purchase, sample and find her products at the grown-on-Maui markets, ag fests and the Napili Farmers’ Market.
Additionally, the urban gardeners have a Facebook page, Napili FLO Farm.
Bogar is quick to share her success.
“It’s not all me; it’s the community, the chefs, my husband, my family and friends; it’s everybody,” she said.
She’s the dreamer, and her husband does “all the building. I come up with the crazy ideas, right; but he’s the man with the tools. He does the research – how do I take my ideas and put ’em to play.”
Thomas was not surprised by her recent win at the local college. He described her as very persistent.
“What Monica wants, she gets. I know what I bring to the table as far as our company, and we are an unstoppable force. I hope that doesn’t sound too vain. I would say Monica likes to be on the cutting edge of things. She is constantly looking for the ‘niche’ if you will,” he said.
And she has lofty goals, beyond her pitch.
“I want to make this bigger than just the kimchi. I want to build a commercial kitchen in Lahaina. I want to be able to find investors to help build this facility, so that others can share in this opportunity.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” she said.