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How Wildfire Preparedness Helped Save a Maui Small Business

Kevin Schenk owns Helewai Eco Tours, which educates visitors about Maui’s watersheds and native species, and Seeding the Future, which gives visitors a hands-on way to help plant and propagate native plant species. Following the devasting wildfires in Maui last year, Schenk received a $5,000 Readiness for Resiliency Program grant to help his business recover.

Kevin Schenk

Owner, Helewai Eco Tours and Seeding the Future

How did the wildfires impact your businesses?

I lost a lot of business. The whole island was empty of tourists, and for the most part, they still haven’t come back. There’s a bunch of misinformation going around that hotels are full of displaced residents from the fire and that we don’t want tourists to come, but that’s not true. There’s a lot of room for people to come back to Maui — and we want them!

What did you use your grant toward?

At Seeding the Future, we host workshops for visitors to help plant native species. We can plant as many as 4,000 new native plants in a couple of hours, and it connects people to our conservation efforts on the island. It’s a difficult concept to explain, so it helps to show the process visually. With our grant, we hired a videographer to improve our marketing materials. We sent the new video out to corporate clients, and we booked a lot of events that we are hosting right now.

What advice do you have for other small businesses looking to improve their disaster preparedness?

Understand what resources are out there before a disaster happens, like the Readiness for Resiliency program and federal disaster grants. Know your finances and have them in order. It’s hard if you’re trying to grow and scale a small business, but don’t spend money you don’t have if you can help it. Lastly, if disaster strikes, be ready to spring into action and help your community. The day after the fire, I used my vans to take people out to the west side to help hand out basic necessities.

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