The Path to Prosperity (P2P) has announced the winners of this year’s sustainable business development competition. The Sawmill Farm in Sitka and The Salty Pantry in Petersburg were selected as the winning businesses for the 2015 competition. Winners were featured at the 2016 Innovation Summit Feb. 8 at Centennial Hall in Juneau, where they received a $40,000 award, as well as one year of business development support.
“Anyone who has ever started a business knows how overwhelming it is to manage the whole picture and move forward, and doing that has you too busy to connect with the help that you need to make your job easier. P2P closes that gap,” said Bobbi Daniels of The Sawmill Farm, who was making her third appearance as a finalist in the competition.
The Sawmill Farm uses cast-off food from grocery stores and restaurants to feed locally raised, hormone- and antibiotic-free livestock. “Winning this award radically changes how quickly we will be able to grow The Sawmill Farm,” Daniels said.
Mindy Anderson, owner of The Salty Pantry, agrees. “The Path to Prosperity competition has taught me to take an in-depth look into my business idea of opening a small market and deli in Petersburg, by guiding me through the process of completing a business plan I can use as a valuable tool for planning, operating my business, recruiting, and for driving my business in the future,” said Anderson.
The Salty Pantry will be a family-owned deli in Petersburg, specializing in rustic comfort dishes made with seasonal produce from local producers. The commercial kitchen will be available for local artisans to create products to sell and for educating the community through cooking classes, demonstrations and on the job training.
The Sawmill Farm and The Salty Pantry were selected from several applications from Southeast Alaska businesses. In July, 12 finalists were chosen and they received technical support to develop their business plans. That included a three-day boot camp held in Juneau. In addition to The Sawmill Farm, there was a second Sitka project among the 12 finalists, Matthew Jackson’s Sitka Seedling Farms.
P2P is a partnership between Haa Aaní CDFI (Community Development Fund) and The Nature Conservancy. The contest targets Southeast Alaska residents with ideas for triple-bottom-line-oriented businesses; those that will have a positive economic, social, and environmental impact on their communities. Over three competition cycles, the program has received applications from more than 105 businesses and start-ups from across Southeast Alaska, and has provided intense management training to 36 entrepreneurs during the signature business boot camp weekend in Juneau.
The program’s success has garnered attention from beyond Southeast. In 2015, Path to Prosperity was presented a Silver Award for Excellence in Economic Development by the International Economic Development Council. Joe Morrison of Biz21 Consulting in Anchorage has praised the program for its results. “Path to Prosperity is a results-driven competition — you can see the impact it’s having by looking at its outcomes, and the businesses that have been through the program. It is the best-in-class business development program in Alaska,” said Morrison.
A unique feature of the program is that the resources at boot camp weekend benefit all twelve finalists, regardless of whether or not they go on to win the program. “Although I did not win the competition, the information, education and consulting that I received was invaluable,” said 2015 finalist Tina Steffen of Skya’ana Coffee Company in Klawock. “This competition has changed the way I run my businesses. I am so thankful for everything that I learned through P2P. Be it a start-up or an existing business, participating in the Path 2 Prosperity Competition is a valuable experience.”
Looking Toward the Future
Haa Aaní CDFI and The Nature Conservancy are excited with the level of entrepreneurial activity the competition has inspired, and as sponsors, they are seeking funding to continue the program.“The number of participants receiving technical assistance and training resources from our rural communities has been increasing,” said Ed Davis, director of Haa Aaní CDFI. “The strong relationships Haa Aani has built across the region has helped bring this program and its resources to our communities. Program participants and partners recognize this, and it is a key component of P2P’s success.”
Norman Cohen, Southeast Alaska Program Director for The Nature Conservancy, is eager to see Path to Prosperity supporting innovative regional entrepreneurs. “The businesses making sustainable use of local natural resources are the ones that will form the backbone of sustainable economies and vibrant rural communities for years to come,” said Cohen.
This year’s winners are just happy for the support. “I am in awe of the long-term vision of Haa Aaní and The Nature Conservancy to understand that the future of sustainability lies in entrepreneurship,” said Daniels. “We are honored to be able to count them in our corner.”
The 2016 competition will launch in March and April, when the program will visit several villages in the region to recruit participants. Those in larger Southeast Alaska communities can contact the contest organizers for information about how to participate. To learn more, please visit http://www.p2pweb.org/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.