Moanalua High School graduate Mylen Yamamoto was on a flight to Singapore in 2015 when she came up with a revolutionary take on disposable chopsticks.
“My chopsticks kept rolling off the tray table,” she said. “I said to myself, ‘There’s got to be a better way!’”
Her solution is Cropsticks, environmentally friendly disposable chopsticks made from bamboo which include a detachable “hashioki,” or chopstick rest, to keep them off tabletops when not in use.
Yamamoto and her business partners raised $21,000 last year via Kickstarter to fund an initial product run before getting accepted into the University of Hawaii’s XLR8UH startup accelerator program. They’ll ramp up their public profile this week when Cropsticks make an appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank.”
Yamamoto’s husband, Ron Tansingco, is also part of the business. The two got married Sept. 3 at Kualoa Ranch — and found out the next day “Shark Tank” wanted to feature their product on national television.
“We went to Kauai for a minihoneymoon, (and) that’s when we got the phone call saying, ‘Hey, you’re going to pitch on the show next week,’” Yamamoto said. “We looked at each other and said, ‘Honeymoon over!’”
The “Shark Tank” episode featuring Cropsticks will air at 8 p.m. Friday on KITV. Yamamoto wouldn’t divulge much about the experience other than to confirm that Kevin “Mr. Wonderful” O’Leary is “pretty scary,” but did mention what’s next for Cropsticks.
“We collect back all our used chopsticks,” she said. “We’re going to upcycle it (so) it can be turned into tile and used as decoration or shelving. And it’s all made of something people throw away.”