Gunars Valkirs loves chocolate. He always dreamed about having a cacao farm and chocolate factory. He came from humble beginnings and worked very hard his whole life. After a successful career as a biotech entrepreneur, he and his wife, JoRene, decided to share their success and founded the Makana Aloha Foundation as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in 2007 with an endowment of $7.34 million. Since that time, they have supported Maui charities and nonprofits focusing on public education, the arts, healthcare, animal welfare and environmental conservation giving approximately $250,000 each year. This was just the beginning.
In 2013 Gunars and JoRene decided to merge their love for chocolate and philanthropy and began cultivating 50 acres of land in Lahaina and began their journey to make their chocolate dream come true with the creation of Maui Ku’ia Estate Chocolate. The land was previously sugarcane land and there was work to be done to get the soil ready to grow cacao, known as the “food of the gods.” Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. where cacao can be grown outside of a greenhouse.
Gunars’ idea was to grow his chocolate operation and once profitable, they would donate 100% of the net profits to the Makana Aloha Foundation who would then donate to Maui charities and nonprofit community organizations. His business model for MKEC is an exciting development for our community as it is sustainable and has the capacity to generate donations on an even greater scale in the years to come.
Gunars’ long-term goal is to increase the foundation’s endowment to $20 million, allowing them to gift $1 million each year to local organizations. The company is founded on the belief that it is a privilege to be able to give back to the community in which their delicious chocolate is made. The company is proud to set an example by honoring our kuleana (responsibility) to malama (care for) and cultivate the land, grow single-origin cacao and craft some of the world’s finest chocolate—right here on Maui.
Mahalo nui loa to Gunars and JoRene Valkirs, the Makana Aloha Foundation and Maui Ku’ia Estate Chocolate for supporting Imua Family Services and the Maui community!
Click here for more information about Maui Ku’ia Estate Chocolate.
Click here for more information about the Makana Aloha Foundation.