The state of Hawaii is offering grants of up to $10,000 to cover businesses expenses of companies that shift their operations or products to address challenges related to the COVID-19 crisis, Gov. David Ige said on Tuesday.

The $25 million Hawaii Business Pivot Grant program will provide money that can be used for a range of expenses, Ige said, like investments in e-commerce platforms, worker training and reconfiguring spaces to allow for more social distancing.

The program will begin taking applications on Thursday.

“This grant helps take some of the pressure off businesses so they can figure out how to best pivot in the new environment,” Ige said.

Pipeline Bakeshop and Creamery owner Kayla Young is a local business owner who has pivoted to deal with COVID-19. Denby Fawcett/Civil Beat

“When COIVD hit us in March, many businesses had no playbook,” said Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and chief executive with the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, which is administering the grant applications.

In the past six months, she said, businesses and nonprofits have scrambled to write and implement such playbooks. And expenses incurred by such changes now can be covered by grants.

The Hawaii United Okinawa Association, for example, pivoted by putting its popular Okinawan Festival of music, dance, martial arts and other performances online.

Another example: Murphy’s Bar & Grill, which, in an age of forced shutdowns and reluctance among people to eat out, revamped its website and created a takeout menu.

Some have managed dramatic changes. Consider Pipeline Bakeshop and Creamery. Before COVID-19, the Kaimuki sweetshop had a brisk business thanks to a local following and steady stream of tourists, said Gayla Young, the shop’s owner.

Pipeline pivoted to the local market by adding its menu to its website, so residents could order online, she said.

To reach out to the tourists who no longer were coming to Hawaii, Pipeline partnered with Goldbelly.com, which works with some of the nation’s top restaurants and chefs to ship food to far-flung customers.

Pipeline has now shipped treats to all 50 U.S. states, Young said, something she attributes in part to the company’s presence on Instagram and Facebook.

Next up: a mobile app to make it easier for people to place orders.

“We’re just trying to constantly change in this environment,” Young said during a news conference announcing the grant program. “You have to change to be able to thrive in this economy.”

Hawaii’s Changing Economy”  series is supported by a grant from the Hawaii Community Foundation as part of its CHANGE Framework project.

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