For Mamoru and Aiko Takitani, success came from humble beginnings. He opened Hawaiian Host in 1960 and started ramping up business by selling his confections out of the back of his station wagon. Back then, the Takitani’s aimed to sell 100 boxes of chocolates per day, a modest goal that quickly skyrocketed as their sweets became a local favorite.
Today, the Hawaiian Host legacy still runs strong: It’s the Islands’ biggest producer of chocolate-covered macadamias, can be found across continents and offers dozens of products. As Hawaiian Host grew, the Takitani’s began thinking about the legacy they wanted to leave behind. With no children of their own, the couple looked to build a way to help future generations achieve their potential free of financial barriers.
Thus, the Mamoru and Aiko Takitani Foundation, a nonprofit charity, was started in 1993. It was a way for the Takitani’s to invest in bright young minds and give them what they needed to continue their education. It was also their way of giving back to a community that had support them from the beginning. After decades of growth, the Takitani’s never forgot their modest start—or those customers who fell in love with their chocolates. Now they wanted to pay it forward to a community that helped make Hawaiian Host a success story.
Today, the Takitani Foundation continues its mission of helping Hawai‘I students achieve their educational and career goals. The foundation donates hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in the form of scholarships and grants to deserving students who embody those same standards of excellence, innovation and dedication that Mamoru and Aiko Takitani lived by. It also supports local programs that create innovative change in education. “Prior to the Takitani Foundation coming in and supporting our students with scholarships, money was a major barrier to higher education,” says Allison Ishii Blankenship, director of the KA‘I Programs, a community partnership between ‘Iolani School and Pālolo Valley that empowers young scholars from Pālolo Valley through transformative educational opportunities. “Now we have 30 kids in college. We know that wouldn’t have happened without the Takitani Foundation.”
Since its inception, the Takitani Foundation has given more than $6.3 million in scholarships to students across the state. It offers three main branches of scholarships: the Legacy Scholarship Program, Community Scholarship Program and Tribute Scholarship Program.
Legacy Scholarship Program
Offered through public and independent accredited high schools across the state, the Legacy Scholarship Program awards scholarships to senior high school students nominated by their respective schools to continue their education at accredited or licensed vocational schools, community colleges or four-year colleges of their choice. Since it was started in 1993, the Takitani Foundation has awarded scholarships each year to an outstanding student at every qualifying high school in the state. Students awarded a scholarship for their freshman year are eligible to apply for additional foundation scholarships for up to three more years of their undergraduate education.
Community Scholarship Program
The Community Scholarship Program was born as a way for the Takitani Foundation to expand its reach in the community and lend a hand to (or to aid) more students in need. This program offers financial support to students with academic and vocational scholarships, which are handed out through universities, colleges and nonprofits that offer educational and career-building programs for Hawai‘i’s young generations. These grants are given through the foundation by invitation only. Some of its many recipients include Boys and Girls Club of Hawai‘i, Chaminade University, Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapi‘olani Community College, The KA‘I Program at ‘Iolani School, the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE) at UH Shidler College of Business, PUEO Program at Punahou School and YMCA of Honolulu.