To start a business just three months after graduating from college is one thing. To start a business in the middle of a pandemic is another. Ilima Fisher did both. And business is thriving.
Fisher, who graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu in May 2020, is the owner and founder of Milk Market Hawaiʻi, which she started in August 2020. Her business specializes in fresh, organic, and dairy-free beverages — almond milk, coconut milk, and “cold brew o lei,” which is their version of an iced cafe au lait, combining cold brew and their almond milk.
Milk Market Hawaiʻi beverages are currently available online to customers on Oʻahu and Maui, as well as at various Oʻahu farmers markets. Products are made fresh locally and weekly, and they sell out quickly.
Fisher will share how her time as a student at UH West Oʻahu was an important part of her journey to becoming the owner of a flourishing business at the webinar, “On the Horizon at UH West Oʻahu — Alakaʻina Hakuhia Wahine/Women’s Innovative Leadership,” 11 a.m. Thursday, April 22, via Zoom.
“We’re happy with where we are,” Fisher said about her small plant-based beverage operation, “but we do want to expand and make different types of milk and make more that we can send out to (other markets).”
A ‘step ahead’ thanks to UH West Oʻahu
The idea for Milk Market Hawaiʻi came about from a combination of things — Fisher’s travel experiences, her boyfriend’s dietary restrictions, and a heightened awareness of health and nutrition.
“So I just started making nut milk,” said Fisher, who tried out recipes and shared them with those close to her. “I was doing it for my friends and and my family.”
They then began to spread the word, including via social media, and her beverages have been growing in popularity ever since, especially with those who are health conscious. Milk Market Hawaiʻi advertises products that are simple and clean, made only with organic coconut or organic almonds, plus organic dates, alkaline water, and Hawaiian salt.
Fisher’s education and experience at UH West Oʻahu helped shape her path to entrepreneurship — and to small-business success. She recalled how the flexible modalities of the courses she took and the strong relationships she was able to develop with faculty even via her online classes were among the highlights of her time at the university, which culminated with her receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration.
“Having a degree now just lets me have that step ahead of everyone else,” Fisher said. “It just allows you a lot more opportunities and it gives you that credibility.”
More about On the Horizon
The April 22 On the Horizon webinar, moderated by UH West Oʻahu Chancellor Maenette Benham, will highlight two of UH West Oʻahu’s leading female faculty members — Kristina Lu, professor and division chair of Public Administration, and Holly Itoga, assistant professor of Hospitality and Tourism — and two of their successful students-turned-alumnae — Fisher and Leina Ijacic, chief administrative officer at The Institute for Human Services and co‑owner of Premier Medispa.
Attendees will hear about the UH West Oʻahu programs that shaped the careers of these entrepreneurial alumnae and how the programs inspired them to contribute to the growing realm of entrepreneurship and innovation in Hawaiʻi.
The On the Horizon series, presented by the UH Office of Alumni Relations and UH Foundation, aims to showcase programmatic endeavors, campus goals, and opportunities for support at UH’s 10 dynamic campuses.
To attend the April 22 On the Horizon event, register here. Meeting ID and password will be emailed upon registration. Questions for the speakers can be submitted on the registration page.