Twelve businesses, including two from Sitka, selected as finalists in Path to Prosperity contest

Andrew Jylkka of the Sitka bakery Southeast Dough Company puts a tray of fresh-baked bread into a rack to cool. His business was one of the 12 finalists in the 2022 Path to Prosperity business development competition.

JUNEAU, Alaska — The Path to Prosperity Business Competition has selected this year’s cohort of 12 businesses to advance to the second round of the competition. This year’s list of finalists includes two businesses from Sitka — Laura Tirman of Alpenglow Adventures and Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Company.

Started by Sealaska and The Nature Conservancy in 2013 and administered by Spruce Root Community Development, Path to Prosperity is an award-winning competition for small businesses and start-ups located in Southeast Alaska. The 2022 cycle of the Path to Prosperity competition aims to assist Southeast Alaskan entrepreneurs in contributing to a sustainable and regenerative tourism industry in the region that is community-led and locally owned.

In Round 2 of the competition, finalists will participate in Path to Prosperity’s innovative Business Boot Camp where they will get access to resources, work with mentors, and receive one-on-one consulting to develop their business plans. Two finalists will be selected to win $25,000 each to grow their businesses. The following businesses were selected as this year’s finalists:

  • Business Name, Primary Applicant, Location
  • Alaska Brown Bear Bread Co., Sean Williams, Hoonah
  • Alpenglow Adventures, Laura Tirman, Sitka
  • Costa Brava, Rebecca Kameika, Haines
  • Fathoms Alaska, Seth Bader, Juneau
  • Instant Vintage Photos, Kimberly Pruitt, Skagway
  • New Earth Fungi, Alannah Johnson, Juneau
  • Rooney’s Roost B&B, Caitlin Cardell, Wrangell
  • Scoot AK, Aaron Angerman, Wrangell
  • SEAK Expeditions, Joseph Oesterling, Haines
  • Silverthorn Charters, James Silverthorn, Thorne Bay
  • Southeast Dough Company, Andrew Jylkka, Sitka
  • The Wheelhouse, Pat Blair, Petersburg

From starting Wrangell’s first electric scooter rental company, to offering experiential three-week canoe trips for Alaska Native youth, to hosting an inaugural catch-and-release steelhead tournament on Prince of Wales Island, the 2022 Path to Prosperity finalists are defining Southeast Alaska’s visitor industry, creating jobs, and driving regenerative economic growth.

“Sustaining healthy communities in the 21st century means translating Indigenous knowledge, community resilience, and collaborative adaptability into sustainable jobs and innovative economic opportunities,” Spruce Root Executive Director Alana Peterson said. “The Path to Prosperity Competition supports the type of place-based economic development where locally owned and operated businesses are given support to be successful and to develop products and services that solve some of our greatest challenges in the region. A total of 23 entrepreneurs from eight communities applied to Round 1 of Path to Prosperity in 2022.”

While the majority of finalist businesses are involved in the visitor industry, there were some food businesses, such as Southeast Dough Company, to make the finals. Southeast Dough Company is a bakery based in Sitka that specializes in sourdough bread and other fermented products. Jylkka and Southeast Dough Company also won the 2020 Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest.

“Participating in Path to Prosperity will help me bring the vision of Southeast Dough Company into clearer focus,” Jylkka said. “It will help me refine my goals and build my skillset to grow this business in a sustainable way.” 

Sitka’s other finalist, Alpenglow Adventures, will connect tourists with Sitka in a meaningful way by offering multi-day active adventures that include hiking, biking, kayaking, culture, food, art, and more. Alpenglow Adventures will work with and support existing local businesses by incorporating these businesses in the multi-day itineraries sold to guests as a package deal.

According to the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, regenerative tourism is a holistic approach to tourism that proactively works to improve ecosystems, elevate local economies, and promote meaningful and responsible visitor experiences. Authentic local representation, deep community involvement, and practical and innovative steps for conserving and enhancing the environment are central to this approach.

Over 10 competition cycles, Path to Prosperity has received more than 320 applications from Southeast Alaskan small business owners and entrepreneurs across 23 communities. The program has trained 122 finalists at Business Boot Camp and awarded 19 winners $610,000 to build their local businesses. All the participants have been trained in the “triple-bottom-line” approach to building a business by learning to measure their profitability as well as the environmental and social impacts of their business. In recent years, competition winners include Skyaana Coffee Co. (Klawock); Barnacle Foods (Juneau); Foundroot (Haines); Village Coffee Company (Yakutat); Kasaan Arts, Museum & Canoes (Kasaan); and more.

This program is supported by The Edgerton Foundation, Sealaska, USDA, Opportunity Finance Network, The Nature Conservancy, Wells Fargo, Oweesta Corporation, The Sustainable Southeast Partnership, Avista Foundation, Kensington Mine, AK Litho, Elgee Rehfeld, and Alaska Brewing. Spruce Root is grateful for their contributions.

Path to Prosperity is a Spruce Root program. Spruce Root provides local entrepreneurs with access to business development and financial resources in the form of loan capital, business coaching, workshops, and competitions. Together, these programs drive a regenerative economy across Southeast Alaska so communities can forge futures grounded in this uniquely Indigenous place. To learn more about Path to Prosperity or Spruce Root’s other services, visit their website at www.spruceroot.org or email grow@spruceroot.org.

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