A woman-owned business receives a $250,000 loan from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs: Maui Now

Flavors of Italy, a women-owned Hawaii Native company, has received a $250,000 Hua Canoe loan through the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ Mālama Loan Program.

Desiree Kanae Loperfido, a beneficiary of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and her husband, Chef Donato Loperfido, run the business, which imports and distributes alcohol and specializes in a wide variety of wines and cheeses.

A loan signing ceremony was held on September 26 at the First Foundation, OHA’s funding partner, in Kaka’ako.

“What makes Flavors of Italy such a good candidate for this loan is the strength of their business, which has been in existence since 2005,” said Aikūʻē Kalima, OHA’s Mālama Loans Manager. “Desiree and Donato have direct connections to Italy, which allows the company to import and distribute products competitively.”


Based in Honolulu, Flavors of Italy supplies its products to local restaurants, hotels like the Four Seasons, and grocery stores like Foodland and Whole Foods Market. The company has grown from a humble beginning in 2005, when it imported just one pallet of goods, to where it currently ships eight to ten containers of wine and cheese each year.

Desiree Loperfido said the company will use the loan funds to expand the business by building inventory and purchasing additional equipment. The company is also expected to start making cheeses like fresh mozzarella, eliminate transportation and shipping costs, and make Hawaii more sustainable.

Loperfido, who was born and raised on a Nānākuli homestead, said she attended training on applying for a malama loan years ago and remembered the OHA program when they were looking to start their business.


“I spoke to my husband and we decided to reach out to OHA and see if they can help us because we need that extra money to grow our business,” she said. “The interest rates are great and we really appreciate what OHA and its Mālama Loan Program are doing for the Hawaiian community. We are grateful for the help because we really needed it.”

OHA Chief Executive 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 beneficiaries interested in starting a new business or existing business owners with working capital to provide.

“We seek to support these beneficiaries by increasing their financial capacity and building economic self-sufficiency, and this business loan to Flavors of Italy is a great example of that work,” said Lindsey.


OHA’s Hua Kanu Business Loans offer high-quality business owners seven-year soft loans ranging from $150,000 to $1 million, while Mālama Business Loans target startups and small businesses with loans ranging 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 comprise the Mālama Loans program.

Utilizing a federal funding stream available through the Administration for Native Americans, OHA’s Mālama Loan Program makes the federal funds available to local Hawaiians to expand their businesses, improve their homes, and help fund educational expenses.

Learn more about OHA loans at oha.org/loans or call 808-594-1924.

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