Co-Founder, Pua Mohala Healing and Advocacy Services, LLC
Selected to be part of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Enterprising Women of Color Business Center’s Small Business Marketing Bootcamp; financial and marketing counseling client
Holistic and culturally relevant opportunities for indigenous youth to create a healthier lāhui (people)—that’s what Pua Mohala Healing and Advocacy Services, LLC is all about. Founded by educator Momi Ramolete and licensed clinical social worker Priscilla Smith, the company aims to strengthen communities by providing much-needed services to guide and support adolescents as they navigate their paths to adulthood.
Momi has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher and high school administrator, while Priscilla is a supervising therapist with over 20 years of experience. The two met through their sons, who are best friends, and began having conversations about gaps in mental health and education services for indigenous children and launched their company in an effort to address these disparities.
“In the transition from childhood to adulthood, the decisions youth make have consequences,” Momi explained. “Western modalities in healing and mental health don’t serve people of color. We pair mental health and modern styles and methods with cultural relevancy. I ka wā ma mua, i ka wā ma hope, the future is in the past. This references that everyone innately has knowledge from their ancestors in their bodies so they can heal themselves.”
The company offers an array of workshops and retreats that are intentionally and purposefully designed for indigenous adolescents and their families, including teen goal setting, coping techniques, mental health awareness, cooking demonstrations, meditation sessions, art, and music. They also offer a signature “Mahina + Me” retreat that focuses on indigenous ways of knowing and exploring the connection between the moon and the menstrual cycle. As a for-profit business, the company partners with other organizations that donate funds for scholarships and subsidized tickets for those with financial hardships.
Throughout their entrepreneurial journey, the biggest challenge Momi and Priscilla faced was learning the many aspects of running a business. “The programs we participated in really helped us to fill in those business gaps we had so we have a good foundation to lay our grand ideas and schemes on. We had to learn so many things within the last two years,” Momi said.
And all of their hard work and efforts to overcome their learning curve has truly paid off as evidenced by the many collaborations Pua Mohala Healing and Advocacy Services has been able to forge with partners like Project Koa Yoga, DreamHouse ʻEwa Beach charter school, and Purple Maiʻa. “Women are special. They’re dealing with the home, kids, hustling and building businesses, working one or more jobs,” Momi said, noting that she and Priscilla both continue their full-time jobs while also operating the business and caring for their families. “There are similar things we can talk about, like the struggles we have. Collaborations happen because of that. We’re all trying to do the same thing—uplift our communities. It’s the most beautiful thing that’s happened.”
Momi learned about the MBDA Enterprising Women of Color Business Center through the FoundHer accelerator program. “We were so privileged to be able to do the one-on-one marketing and financial counseling. Most recently, someone recommended the marketing course, so I’m in the marketing bootcamp right now,” she said. “I know how to run a school. I definitely know how to do that well. It’s now applying those leadership skills to business. That’s what the one-on-one counseling helped me with. In order to prioritize my time, I need to focus on my business. The Center helped us to realize our worth and what we should be charging.”
In the future, Momi hopes she and Priscilla can open their very own retreat center. “This dedicated space will be important for families to come and feel safe, and we can invite other practitioners,” she shared.” Additionally, they plan to supervise more students of color who are working toward their social work or clinical therapy licensure, thereby increasing representation of people of color in social services and mental health professions.
To her fellow woman entrepreneurs and small business owners, Momi offers the following advice: “Come from a place of abundance and know that there’s enough for everyone. When you come from a place of scarcity, you get very closed off and you get very judgmental and protective. When you come from a place of abundance, you can collaborate. There’s enough for everyone and everyone can be successful. Be open to those possibilities of collaborating with other entrepreneurs and businesses. Share your message because it’s going to resonate with others and they’re going to want to work with you.”