Updated: October 9, 2022
*Story courtesy: Maui Economic Opportunity
A 7 1/2 year old Wailuku entrepreneur chose the Maui Economic Opportunity Head Start program to receive $150 from the proceeds of her handmade bracelet sales. “I wanted to help people,” said Mila Diaz of Wailuku. “It makes you feel good . . . because I am giving to other people, not me.”
Her father, Aaron, said his daughter really wanted to help children on the island. MEO was the only one he could find “that spoke about giving back specifically to the children in need on the island,” according to an organization announcement.
“That’s the biggest reason why” MEO was selected as Mila’s benefactor, he said.
For the past 56 years, the nonprofit MEO has run the Head Start pre-kindergarten program for children from low income families in Maui County. There currently are 13 in-person and virtual sites that serve 3 and 4 year olds. MEO’s Early Childhood Services division also operates the Kahi Kamaliʻi Infant/Toddler program.
In all, more than 250 students and their families are enrolled in MEO’s Early Childhood Services programs.
Aaron and wife, Kaitlin, and Mila and her siblings, Tevita, 6, and Samson, 4, stopped by MEO’s Wailuku office on Wednesday, March 10, to present the gift to Debbi Amaral, the director of MEO’s Early Childhood Services.
The bracelet-making venture was the result of a coalescence of Mila’s attraction to jewelry, her entrepreneurial spirit sparked by the family business and her parent’s desire to teach their daughter about the rewards of giving back to the community.
“Honestly, that’s our only goal as parents,” said Aaron about instilling the value of altruism. “We do our best to give back to the community.”
The family runs Haleakava, a kava bar, located at 1794 S. Kīhei Road. The business caters to a mostly local clientele and has been doing OK amid the pandemic, Aaron said.
According to family, when they opened Haleakava, it sparked the “entrepreneurial spirit: in Mila. She put an “open” sign on the door to her room, said her dad. “I could tell she was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug,” he said.
“I told her, ‘yeah if this is something you want to do I will help you,’” Aaron recalled. “‘But we are going to have to give back. So you will have to pick the charity you would like to give back to.’”
The charity ended up being MEO. Aaron went on a couple of community driven Facebook pages and asked for ideas on organizations that give back to youth. Among the suggestions was MEOHead Start.
The business idea stemmed from Mila being “very much into jewelry and glittery things,” said Aaron. “She’s making them for other people and giving them out,” he said. “We thought this would go hand in hand with what she is used to.”
Mila used twine and pineapple and wave charms to create her bracelets in multiple colors. She began selling them at the beginning of February for $3 each or two for $5.
She sold 100 bracelets and donated $100 from the sales to MEO. One donor gave her $50 for the cause, so her donation to MEO totaled $150. The rest of the revenues were used for materials and her hula activities, said Aaron.
She plans to make donations to a special cause each month.
When asked if Mila needed some business advice, Aaron laughed and said his daughter is “a really good negotiator.” They set up a stand in the kava shop for Mila to sell her bracelets and posted the bracelet sale on Facebook.
“It sells itself,” Aaron said. “People are eager to help.”