Twelve sustainable Southeast Alaska businesses vie to win two $25,000 prizes in Path to Prosperity contest

Angela Ketah, back left, and family of Sitka Flowers & The Chocolate Moose, which makes and sells its own handmade chocolates in Sitka

The Path to Prosperity sustainable business development competition has selected this year’s cohort of 12 businesses (including three from Sitka) to advance to the second round of the competition. Started by Sealaska and The Nature Conservancy in 2013 and run by Spruce Root, Path to Prosperity is an award-winning competition for small businesses and start-ups located in Southeast Alaska. As usual, several of the finalists are businesses centered around the use of local foods.

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 models and plans. In February 2021, two finalists will be selected to win $25,000 each to grow their businesses. The following 12 businesses were selected as this year’s finalists:

  • Business Name, Primary Applicant, Location
  • Alaska Today, Allen Bird, Ketchikan
  • Caffeinated Raven, Alison Bremner (Marks), Juneau
  • Coastal Heating and Repair, James Jensen, Yakutat
  • Equinox, Cameo Padilla, Sitka
  • Gastineau Grains, Kate Higgins, Juneau
  • Integrative Mushroom Solutions, Uyanga “Angie” Mendbayar, Juneau
  • Jellyfish Donuts, Brianna Krantz, Ketchikan
  • Kaasei Training and Consulting, Naomi Michalsen, Ketchikan
  • Sitka Flowers & The Chocolate Moose, Angela Ketah, Sitka
  • TIDES Education Associates (no website), Nancy Douglas, Sitka
  • Well-Being, Adrianna Oliva, Ketchikan
  • Xíinaansdla, Marita Tolson, Hydaburg

From offering Haida cultural immersion in a traditional longhouse, to creating tasty snacks from spent grain, to incorporating culture-based learning into Alaska’s school systems, the 2020 Path to Prosperity finalists are defining Southeast Alaska’s local products and services, creating jobs, and driving local, sustainable, economic growth.

Nancy Douglas of TIDES Education Associates (TIDES stands for Teaching with Indigenous Design for Every Student)

Shgen George of TIDES Education Associates, a new business just getting started

“Path to Prosperity accelerates the growth of small businesses throughout the region by bringing businesses together to network, work with experts, and write their business plans,” says program administrator Ashley Snookes. A total of 18 entrepreneurs from six communities applied to Path to Prosperity in 2020. “Businesses have been hard-hit this year, and we want to do everything we can to help them, our communities, and our region thrive.”

One of the unique opportunities in Path to Prosperity this year is the program’s focus on minority-led businesses. “Southeast Alaska is a diverse region, and we hope the program will be especially beneficial to Alaska Natives and other minority communities this year,” says Snookes. The 2020 program is sponsored largely by the Minority Business Development Agency, which defines minority-led businesses as United States citizens who are Asian, Black, Hispanic, Hasidic Jews, Native American, and Pacific Islanders. Ownership by minority individuals means the business is at least 51% owned by such individuals.

The M/V Equinox, a charter tour company owned by Cameo Padilla

Over the past eight years, Path to Prosperity has received more than 260 applications from Southeast Alaskan small business owners and entrepreneurs across 22 communities. The program has trained 89 finalists at Business Boot Camp and awarded 15 winners $510,000 to build their local businesses. All of 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. Competition winners include Skyaana Coffee Co. (Klawock), Barnacle Foods (Juneau), Foundroot (Haines), Village Coffee Company (Yakutat), Icy Straits Lumber (Hoonah), and more.

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 support both new and existing businesses in Southeast Alaska and empower business owners through increased self-sufficiency. 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.

 

Applications open for the 2020 Path to Prosperity competition, this year with a focus on minority-owned businesses

Nick Schlosstein, left, and Leah Wagner of Foundroot seed company operate their farm stand in Haines. Foundroot was one of the two 2019 winners of the Path to Prosperity business development competition.

In a time of economic upheaval, resilient businesses are needed more than ever. The 2020 Path to Prosperity (P2P) Competition aims to identify and support resilient, relevant, and innovative Southeast Alaskan businesses. Many of the winning businesses over the years have focused on food, including in 2019 with Foundroot seed company of Haines and Village Coffee Company of Yakutat winning, but there have been guitar manufacturers, ski makers, and other non-food businesses that have won.

This year, the competition is focused on supporting minority-led businesses and is now accepting applications for its eighth competition cycle. Twelve applicants will be selected as finalists to advance to Round 2 and receive an all-expenses paid trip to Juneau to attend Business Boot Camp. They also will receive one-on-one mentorship and consulting that they can use to help write their business plans and grow their businesses after Boot Camp. Two winners will be selected from the pool of finalists to win $25,000 each to start or grow their businesses.

Each year, Path to Prosperity aims to improve the program for entrepreneurs. Based off of feedback from past program participants, key insights by the McDowell Group, and in an effort to further align the program with Spruce Root’s core mission, the program will be making the following changes:

Awards

In the past competition cycles, two winners were selected to win awards of $25,000 for consulting and technical assistance to grow their business. This year, the program will expand the use of these awards to include long-term capital expenditures, such as equipment.

Justyne Wheeler of Village Coffee Company in Yakutat. Village Coffee Company was one of the two 2019 winners of the Path to Prosperity competition.

“At Spruce Root, we believe that through the business planning process, entrepreneurs are able to identify what they really need to take their business to the next level. We want the award to align with that fundamental belief,” program administrator Ashley Snookes said. “We still want to see the award being used for the capacity development of the entrepreneurs, but we recognize that along with that development, entrepreneurs may want and need to purchase equipment or other fixed assets.”.

Awards will not be able to be used for short-term purchases such as payroll or rent but are open to be individualized according to the business plan. Businesses that are able to make a strong case for how their award purchases will catapult their business forward will stand a greater chance of winning the competition, especially for businesses that do so by emphasizing the triple-bottom-line impacts of their business.

COVID-19

COVID-19 is disrupting daily operations for businesses throughout the nation, and Southeast Alaska is no exception.

“Applications are open as usual beginning April 1st, but other aspects of the competition will adapt with the changing health and economic environments of today,” Snookes said.

Instead of conducting in-person community visits, Spruce Root will be working virtually with community catalysts and leaders to encourage entrepreneurs to apply. As Business Boot Camp in September nears, Spruce Root will hold Boot Camp in person only if it’s safe to do so. The content of Boot Camp will be adapted to meet the changing needs of consumers.

“Demand for products and services that remain relevant and meet the needs of consumers is still as strong as it was six months ago, but what consumers want and need has changed,” Snookes said. “More than ever, Path to Prosperity will deliver content that’s relevant to today’s economic climate.”

Businesses that are looking to develop new products or services to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic are strongly encouraged to apply.

Round 2 Scoring

This year, program administrators will be simplifying the Round 2 score sheet and providing finalists with a template that aligns with the new scoring guidelines.

“Business plans are as unique as the businesses they capture on paper. We hope that a shorter set of criteria and an optional template will enable entrepreneurs to work more clearly through what can be an intimidating and lengthy process,” Snookes said.

The program will also be shortening business plan submissions to a maximum of 30 pages (not counting the financial model). The template and shortened score sheet will go hand in hand with coaching and workshops from Spruce Root and other partner organizations to assist business as they develop business plans that work dynamically with their business.

Minority Focus

One of the unique opportunities in Path to Prosperity this year is the program’s focus on minority-led businesses.

“Southeast Alaska is a diverse region, and we hope the program will be especially beneficial to Alaska Natives and other minority communities this year,” Snookes said.

The 2020 program is sponsored largely by the Minority Business Development Agency, which defines minority-led businesses as United States citizens who are Asian, Black, Hispanic, Hasidic Jews, Native American, and Pacific Islanders. Ownership by minority individuals means the business is at least 51 percent owned by such individuals.

Timeline for 2019 Path to Prosperity Competition:

  • April 1, 2020 – Applications Open
  • May 31, 2020 – Applications Due at 11:59 PM
  • July 1, 2020 – Finalists Announced
  • September 18-20, 2020 – Business Boot Camp in Juneau, AK
  • December 7, 2020 – Round 2 Business Plans Due
  • February 2021 – Winners Announced

To apply or learn more, please visit https://www.spruceroot.org/path-to-prosperity

Over the past seven years, Path to Prosperity has received applications from 271 applicants in 23 Southeast Alaskan communities. We have trained 86 finalists at our award-winning Business Boot Camp and have awarded 15 finalists $510,000 to start or grow their business.

Path to Prosperity is a Spruce Root program that was started as a collaboration between Sealaska and The Nature Conservancy. Spruce Root is committed to assisting Southeast Alaska’s people and businesses to reach their full potential through loan capital and support services to promote economic, social, cultural, and environmental resiliency.

Foundroot, Village Coffee Company win $25,000 each in 2019 Path to Prosperity business development contest

Nick Schlosstein, left, and Leah Wagner of Foundroot seed company man their farm stand in Haines. Foundroot was one of the 2019 winners of the Path to Prosperity business development competition.

Two Southeast Alaska businesses — Foundroot seed company of Haines and Village Coffee Company of Yakutat — recently were selected as winners of the 2019 Path to Prosperity economic development contest. As winners, Foundroot and Village Coffee Company were awarded $25,000 each for consulting and technical services. The winners were announced on Feb. 5, during the 2020 Mid-Session Summit hosted by Southeast Conference in Juneau.

Foundroot is an open-pollinated seed company run by Leah Wagner and Nick Schlosstein in Haines that sells vegetable, herb, and flower seeds proven for Alaskan growing conditions. On their small sustainable farm in Haines, Foundroot is growing seed varieties that are adapted to Alaska’s climatic challenges and have sent seeds to over 65 different communities throughout the state. Teaching their customers how to save their own seeds and supporting their gardening and farming endeavors is integral to the company’s philosophy. Foundroot’s mission is for all Alaskans to feel confident growing food, no matter the scale, and fostering self-reliance and a deeper sense of food security for us all.

Justyne Wheeler of Village Coffee Company in Yakutat. Village Coffee Company was one of the two 2019 winners of the Path to Prosperity competition.

Village Coffee Company is a drive-thru espresso shop in Yakutat run by Justyne Wheeler that serves custom coffee drinks and homemade pastries crafted from locally-sourced ingredients, including fresh salmonberry upside down cake and spruce tip tea. In the small community of Yakutat, Village Coffee Company has found itself serving many regulars, who oftentimes drive up in 4x4s or forklifts to get their daily cup. Village Coffee Company works closely with the community to be as environmentally sustainable as possible. They provide coffee grinds for composting; use compostable stir-sticks, cups, and packaging; and source locally when possible.

These two companies were chosen from 13 finalist businesses from Southeast Alaska (including the Sitka Food Co-Op and M/V Adak Short- and Long-Term Rentals from Sitka) that participated in the Path to Prosperity’s Business Boot Camp in September in Juneau. They were chosen from 43 businesses from 12 Southeast Alaska communities that applied for the 2019 Path to Prosperity contest.

The following businesses were selected as 2019’s finalists:

  • Business Name, Applicant, Location
  • Alaska Costal Seaweed, Theresa Abbas, Juneau
  • Around the Bay Lodging, Susan Ritchie, Wrangell
  • Foundroot, Leah Wagner and Nick Schlosstein, Haines
  • Gale Force Gardens, Stephanie Jurries, Craig
  • Jellyfish Donuts, Brianna Krantz, Ketchikan
  • Kaawu Shellfish Co., Anthony Lindoff, Hoonah
  • Kootéeyaa Koffee House, Lee Wallace, Saxman
  • M/V Adak Short- and Long-Term Rentals, Brendan and Rachel Jones, Sitka
  • Sagebrush Dry Gear, John Peterka, Kake
  • Sitka Food Co-Op, Keith Nyitray, Sitka
  • Tamico, Inc., Carrie J. K. Martinsen, Petersburg
  • Tommaso Shellfish, James Greeley, Whale Pass
  • Village Coffee Co., Justyne Wheeler, Yakutat

An aerial view of the gardens at Foundroot.

At Boot Camp, the finalists learn about triple-bottom-line principles, worked with mentors, and received one-on-one counseling on how to develop their business models and plans. Following this intensive business training weekend, the finalists spent two months working with Spruce Root business coaches to create thorough business plans and pitch videos to be submitted to the judges. The winners are selected based on the feasibility, social impact, and environmental sustainability of their businesses.

Path to Prosperity is run by Spruce Root, Inc., and is made possible through a partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. Since the first competition in 2013, Path to Prosperity has received over 300 applications from Southeast Alaskan small business owners and entrepreneurs across 22 communities. The program has trained 89 finalists at Business Boot Camp and awarded 15 winners $510,000 to build their businesses. All of 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. Previous competition winners include Skyaana Coffee Co. (Klawock), Barnacle Foods (Juneau), The Salty Pantry (Petersburg), Port Chilkoot Distillery (Haines), Icy Straits Lumber (Hoonah), and others.

The Village Coffee Company trailer.

Spruce Root is an Alaska Native-run CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) that 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 support both new and existing businesses in Southeast Alaska and empower business owners through increased self-sufficiency.

Applications for the 2020 Path to Prosperity competition will open on April 1 and will close on May 31. This year there will be a focus on minority-run businesses.

To learn more about Path to Prosperity or Spruce Root’s other services (such as small business loans), visit their website at www.spruceroot.org or email grow@spruceroot.org.

Two Sitka businesses make the finals in 2019 Path to Prosperity sustainable business development competition

Volunteers and staff of the Sitka Food Co-Op during one of the twice-monthly food deliveries held at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Two Sitka businesses — the Sitka Food Co-Op and M/V Adak Short- and Long-Term Rentals — have been chosen as finalists in the 2019 Path to Prosperity sustainable business development competition, joining 11 others from Southeast Alaska in the second round of the contest. Started by Sealaska and The Nature Conservancy in 2013 and now run by Spruce Root, Path to Prosperity (P2P) is an award-winning competition for small businesses and start-ups located in the region.

Customers wait to pay their bills during a recent Sitka Food Co-Op food delivery.

The Sitka Food Cooperative, or Sitka Food Co-Op, is “a buying club on steroids,” according to general manager Keith Nyitray. The group started in 2011 as a way for local residents to order healthy food for less than what they’d pay in Sitka grocery stores. It now works with local food producers, giving them a venue to sell their products during the twice-monthly delivery days.

“Being selected as a finalist in the P2P competition is indeed an honor and we look forward to meeting and possibly working with all the other finalists and, more importantly, we look forward to learning how to grow our business and increase our positive social and environmental impacts here in Sitka and SE Alaska,” Nyitray wrote in an email. “For the past eight years the Co-op has been growing (pardon the pun) organically and we’re now on the verge of a major expansion. It’s definitely a challenging time and that’s where the professional and technical support we’ll get through the P2P competition (and from Spruce Root) will come in handy and help us ‘Bring Good Food & Community Together’ to a much greater degree.”

The M/V Adak is a WWII-era tugboat owned by Brendan and Rachel Jones that serves as a bed and breakfast.

Owned by Brendan and Rachel Jones, the M/V Adak is a WWII-era tugboat that serves as a bed and breakfast in Sitka. Even though the business may not, at first glance, have much to do with local food, the Jones family has added a local food component.

“The Joneses join up with third-generation Sitka troller Karl Jordan to provide Alaska’s first sustainable pescatourism experience,” Brendan Jones wrote in an email. “This joint venture will provide guests the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a commercial fishermen, trolling Sitka Sound and Cape Edgecumbe, followed by a night on a vintage World War II tugboat, as Beak chef Renee Trafton instructs guests on how to prepare king salmon. Alaska’s Native heritage, as well as environmentally sound fishing and living practices will be highlighted as visitors gain insight into life on a remote Alaska island.”

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 models and plans. Nine of the 13 finalists deal with food first, and a couple of others also have food as a secondary focus to the business. Sitka is the only community to have more than one business make the finals this year. The following businesses were selected as this year’s finalists:

  • Business Name, Applicant, Location
  • Alaska Costal Seaweed, Theresa Abbas, Juneau
  • Around the Bay Lodging, Susan Ritchie, Wrangell
  • Foundroot, Leah Wagner, Haines
  • Gale Force Gardens, Stephanie Jurries, Craig
  • Jellyfish Donuts, Brianna Krantz, Ketchikan
  • Kaawu Shellfish Co., Anthony Lindoff, Hoonah
  • Kootéeyaa Koffee House, Lee Wallace, Saxman
  • M/V Adak Short- and Long-Term Rentals, Brendan Jones, Sitka
  • Sagebrush Dry Gear, John Peterka, Kake
  • Sitka Food Co-Op, Keith Nyitray, Sitka
  • Tamico, Inc., Carrie J. K. Martinsen, Petersburg
  • Tommaso Shellfish, James Greeley, Whale Pass
  • Village Coffee Co., Justyne Wheeler, Yakutat

“Each year, Path to Prosperity receives exciting new business ideas from startups throughout our region, with this year being more competitive than ever,” says program administrator Ashley Snookes. A total of 43 entrepreneurs from 12 communities applied to Path to Prosperity in 2019. “An essential component to economic growth in our region is the growth of small businesses, and we are thrilled to help these businesses thrive.”

A guest of the M/V Adak holds up a couple of king salmon

According to UAA’s Center for Economic Development’s State of Entrepreneurship report, startups contribute 4,000 to 6,000 new jobs to Alaska’s economy each year, with Southeast Alaska contributing the highest percentage of businesses per population in the state. From oyster farming and kelp harvesting in our pristine ocean waters, to truly Alaskan experiences for visitors, to manufacturing the best dry bags one could ask for, the 2019 Path to Prosperity finalists are defining the local products and services of the last frontier, creating jobs, and driving local, sustainable, economic growth.

Over the past seven years, Path to Prosperity has received more than 250 applications from Southeast Alaskan small business owners and entrepreneurs across 22 communities. The program has trained 76 finalists at Business Boot Camp and awarded 13 winners $460,000 to build their local businesses. All of 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. Previous competition winners include Skyaana Coffee Co. (Klawock), Barnacle Foods (Juneau), The Salty Pantry (Petersburg), Port Chilkoot Distillery (Haines), Icy Straits Lumber (Hoonah), and others.

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, workshop, and competitions. Together, these programs support both new and existing businesses in Southeast Alaska and empower business owners through increased self-sufficiency.

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. Also, to learn about the Path to Prosperity Master Class (deadline to register is July 31, cost is $450), click this link, https://www.spruceroot.org/2019masterclass.

2019 Path To Prosperity business development contest application deadline closes May 31

Sylvia Heinz and Carl Bieberich of Mud Bay Lumber Company in Haines were one of the two Path to Prosperity business innovation contest winners in 2018.

Are you a resident of Southeast Alaska with an idea for a sustainable small business you want to start or expand? The Path To Prosperity business development competition application deadline closes at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, May 31.

Path To Prosperity (P2P) is a competition sponsored by Spruce Root Community Development (a subsidiary of Sealaska Co.) and The Nature Conservancy. It is offering two winning entrepreneurs a prize package worth $25,000 each in consulting/technical assistance to develop their business concept, along with support in finding investor funding. The first few years of the Path To Prosperity contest allowed applications from all types of businesses, but in 2017 the contest focused just on food businesses. In 2018 and again for 2019, the contest is back to being open to a variety of business types.

The competition aims to grow local companies that will increase employment, have a positive social and economic impact on their communities, promote sustainable use of local resources, and increase entrepreneurial know-how and business leadership in Southeast Alaska.

Lisa Daugherty of Juneau Composts was one of the two 2018 Path to Prosperity contest winners.

Over six cycles, the Path to Prosperity (P2P) business development competition has received applications from more than 200 businesses and start-ups from across Southeast Alaska and has provided intensive management training to 76 entrepreneurs during the signature Business Boot Camp weekends 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.

The Path to Prosperity Business Development Competition is open to individuals, for-profit businesses or tribal entities. Business ideas may include a new business or an expansion of an existing business. 501(c)3 nonprofits are not eligible. Applicants must be Southeast Alaska residents.

Twelve finalists will be named in July 2019, and they will attend the weekend Business Boot Camp in September in Juneau to receive technical assistance in writing a business plan. The 12 finalists will submit their final business plans in December, and two business plans will then be selected as winners and each will receive an award of up to $25,000 for consulting and technical services to develop the business.

The 2018 winners were Juneau Composts and Mud Bay Lumber Company of Haines. Lisa Daugherty owns Juneau Composts, which gathers compostable material from Juneau to create soil for gardening. Sylvia Heinz and Carl Bieberich own Mud Bay Lumber Company, which is a small-scale sawmill. Two Sitka companies were among the finalists in 2018, but didn’t win. The 2017 winners were Mighty Bear Roots of Wrangell and Game Creek Family Orchards of Hoonah. Mighty Bear Roots is owned by Dixie and Chris Booker, and they run an aeroponic greenhouse that provides Wrangell with fresh produce. Game Creek Family Orchards is owned by Rob Bishop, and it supplies fruit trees, tree services, and apples to Hoonah and Southeast Alaska.

Other past Path To Prosperity winners include Wild Alaska Kelp Company (now known as Barnacle Foods) of Juneau and Skya’ana Coffee of Klawock in 2016; the Salty Pantry of Petersburg and the Sawmill Farm of Sitka in 2015; Port Chilkoot Distillery of Haines, Coppa of Juneau, and Fairweather Ski Works of Haines in 2014; and Raven Guitars of Wrangell and Alaska Legacy Wood Homes and Products of Icy Strait in 2013.

For information about how to apply and the application process, click this link. You can apply online at this link. Ashley Snookes is the competition administrator, and she can be reached at ashley@spruceroot.org or 907-209-9570. For general questions about the contest, send email to grow@spruceroot.org or call 907-586-9251.

Juneau Composts, Mud Bay Lumber win 2018 Path to Prosperity economic development contest

Sylvia Heinz and Chad Bierberich of Mud Bay Lumber Company in Haines.

Lisa Daugherty of Juneau Composts and the husband-wife team of Sylvia Heinz and Chad Bieberich of Mud Bay Lumber Company in Haines are the winners of the 2018 Path to Prosperity business development competition, earning $25,000 each for consulting and technical assistance to improve their businesses.

The annual economic development contest for Southeast Alaska businesses is co-sponsored by Spruce Root, Inc., The Sustainable Southeast Partnership, Southeast Conference, and The Nature Conservancy. Two Sitka companies — the clothing company Ebb & Flow, owned by Iris A.B. Nash, and the wooden bowl company Timberworks, owned by Zach LaPerriere — were among the 12 companies to make the finals back in July, earning the right to go to a business development Boot Camp in Juneau.

Lisa Daugherty of Juneau Composts

All of the finalists and contestants have worked hard over the past year submitting applications, attending business Boot Camp, and writing detailed business plans. The winners will be formally announced and given their awards at the 2019 Mid-Session Summit hosted by Southeast Conference on February 12. In 2017, only food businesses could enter the competition. But in 2018, the contest returned to its roots and allowed small businesses of all types to enter.

Mud Bay Lumber Company is a family-based small-scale sawmill focused on community collaboration, environmental integrity, and self-reliance. Nestled in the rainforests of Haines, they manufacture and sell local hand-picked, quality trees in the form of rough cut boards, slabs, and other added-value wood products. They promote the responsible use of natural resources through a zero log-waste goal, operating within the limits of the State Forest Management Plan, and by using each tree to its opportune use. By making local timber products accessible and affordable to the Haines community, Mud Bay Lumber Company is also helping to eliminate the fuel and plastic packaging used in long-distance transportation of lumber. They are invested in making local resources accessible and affordable to their community and growing the Haines timber industry into a stable part of the economy.

Juneau Composts performs natural alchemy, packages it, and resells it, all while reducing the noxious waste in our landfill.  They take your kitchen scraps, cook them with thermophilic microorganisms and turn them into rich soil ready for the garden. So far they have diverted more than 111,900 pounds of material from the landfill, turning it into earthy-smelling goodness. They also provide compost education and technical support. They are currently the only composting service available in Juneau and they serve households and businesses of all kinds.

The Path to Prosperity program is organized by Spruce Root, formerly Haa Aani LLC. Over the past six years, the program has attracted more than 200 Southeast Alaskan applicants, trained 64 businesses at our business boot camp, and awarded $460,000. For more information, check out the Path to Prosperity website. Applications for the 2019 cycle open on April 1 and close May 31.

Two Sitka businesses among finalists in 2018 Path To Prosperity contest

Iris Nash works with a customer during a 2017 Sitka Farmers Market.

The Path to Prosperity (P2P) business development competition has selected 12 finalists to advance to the second round of the 2018 program. P2P aims to identify and support new and growing small businesses in Southeast Alaska, especially those implementing sustainable practices into their business models.

After limiting the contest to food businesses only in 2017, P2P returned to its roots and reopened it to businesses of all types this year, which is the way it was the first four years. The two Sitka businesses to make the finals are both non-food businesses — Timberworks owned by Zach LaPerriere and Ebb & Flow owned by Iris A.B. Nash. Several of the finalists are food businesses, but not the two from Sitka.

Zach LaPerriere with some of his wooden bowls

“I make wood bowls and vessels to showcase the outstanding old growth forests of Southeast Alaska,” LaPerriere said. “Every bowl tells a story of the life and growth of an ancient tree. Because I work in woods that average 100 to 500 years old, I take extra time to shape each bowl to show what is most unique about the tree it came from. Because my work blurs the line between a functional wood bowl and art, about half my bowls are in daily use and the other half are displayed as art pieces around the world.”

“Ebb and Flow will be a design and sewn product manufacturing company in Sitka, offering high-function attire for the climate specific to Southeast Alaska,” Nash said. “Morally focused on cultivating conversation on conservation, we aim to tread lightly by utilizing earth friendly fabrics and processes.”

P2P is in its sixth year, and is a partnership between Spruce Root, Inc. and The Nature Conservancy. Since 2013, the P2P program has helped develop local companies that are focused on increasing profitability and local employment, while also having a positive socioeconomic impact on their communities, promoting sustainable use of local resources, and magnifying entrepreneurial capacity in Southeast Alaska.

All 12 finalists will participate in a three-day business boot camp Sept. 28-30 in Juneau. All expenses including airfare and lodging will be covered by P2P for the businesses. The intense weekend of workshops covers topics such as business plan writing, sustainable business practices, and accessing financial capital.

“I’ve been largely self-employed for 25 years and just learned along the way, but never taken the time to step back and write a business plan,” LaPerriere said. “I welcome the business boot camp because it will help me give more structure and planning to what I do. When do I hire professionals to help? How do I evaluate when to seek financing? These aren’t easy questions for a solopreneur artist. Spruce Root is an amazing organization, and it’s an honor to work with and learn from them.”

Nash said her family is out commercial fishing right now, so it will be a month or two before her new business takes shape. But she welcomes the competition as a good starting point.

2018 P2P Finalists

Here are this year’s twelve finalists, ordered by city and announced by business name and applicant:

  • Beaver Brothers Trading Co., Quinn Aboudara, Craig
  • Mud Bay Lumber Company, Sylvia Heinz, Haines
  • Juneau Composts!, Lisa Daugherty, Juneau
  • The Farm, Bridget LaPenter, Juneau
  • Exiting Eden Tannery, Richard Harney, Ketchikan
  • Blue Drum Farm, Marja Smets, Petersburg
  • Petersburg Marine, John Murgas, Petersburg
  • Timberworks, Zach LaPerriere, Sitka
  • Ebb & Flow, Iris A.B. Nash, Sitka
  • Tenakee Logging Company, Gordon W. Chew, Tenakee
  • Gathered & Grown Botanicals, Angie Flickinger, Wrangell
  • Yakutat Sustainable, Nathan Moulton, Yakutat

Path To Prosperity business development contest application deadline closes May 31

Lettuce is picked at a hydroponic garden on Prince of Wales Island. (Photo by Bethany Goodrich)

Are you a resident of Southeast Alaska with an idea for a sustainable small business you want to start or expand? The Path To Prosperity business development competition application deadline closes at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, May 31.

Path To Prosperity (P2P) is a competition sponsored by Spruce Root Community Development (a subsidiary of Sealaska Co.) and The Nature Conservancy. It is offering two winning entrepreneurs a prize package worth $25,000 each in consulting/technical assistance to develop their business concept, along with support in finding investor funding. The first few years of the Path To Prosperity contest allowed applications from all types of businesses, but in 2017 the contest focused just on food businesses. This year the contest is back to being open to a variety of business types.

Dixie and Chris Booker of Mighty Bear Roots of Wrangell, one of the 2017 Path To Prosperity winners. Mighty Bear Roots is an aeroponic greenhouse start-up that will provide the community of Wrangell with a local source of fresh healthy produce. The clean and green operation will utilize energy efficient full spectrum LED lighting, solar panels, rain catch and ground-to-air heat transfer systems to reduce its ecological footprint while growing delicious, healthy food that doesn’t need to be barged in.

The competition aims to grow local companies that will increase employment, have a positive social and economic impact on their communities, promote sustainable use of local resources, and increase entrepreneurial know-how and business leadership in Southeast Alaska.

Over five cycles, the Path to Prosperity (P2P) business development competition has received applications from nearly 200 businesses and start-ups from across Southeast Alaska and has provided intensive management training to 60 entrepreneurs during the signature Business Boot Camp weekends 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.

The Path to Prosperity Business Development Competition is open to individuals, for-profit businesses or tribal entities. Business ideas may include a new business or an expansion of an existing business. 501(c)3 nonprofits are not eligible. Applicants must be Southeast Alaska residents.

Rob Bishop of Game Creek Family Orchards in Hoonah, one of the 2017 Path To Prosperity winners. Game Creek Family Orchards supplies fruit trees, tree maintenance and support services, and fresh, locally grown apples to Hoonah and Southeast Alaska. After years of experimenting with local and disease resistant rootstocks, Game Creek Family Orchards has developed a reputation for producing apple trees uniquely crafted to thrive in Southeast Alaska.

Twelve finalists will be named in July 2018, and they will attend the weekend Business Boot Camp in September in Juneau to receive technical assistance in writing a business plan. The 12 finalists will submit their final business plans in December, and two business plans will then be selected as winners and each will receive an award of up to $25,000 for consulting and technical services to develop the business.

The 2017 winners were Mighty Bear Roots of Wrangell and Game Creek Family Orchards of Hoonah. Mighty Bear Roots is owned by Dixie and Chris Booker, and they run an aeroponic greenhouse that provides Wrangell with fresh produce. Game Creek Family Orchards is owned by Rob Bishop, and it supplies fruit trees, tree services, and apples to Hoonah and Southeast Alaska.

Other past Path To Prosperity winners include Wild Alaska Kelp Company (now known as Barnacle Foods) of Juneau and Skya’ana Coffee of Klawock in 2016; the Salty Pantry of Petersburg and the Sawmill Farm of Sitka in 2015; Port Chilkoot Distillery of Haines, Coppa of Juneau, and Fairweather Ski Works of Haines in 2014; and Raven Guitars of Wrangell and Alaska Legacy Wood Homes and Products of Icy Strait in 2013.

For information about how to apply and the application process, click this link. You can apply online at this link. Ashley Snookes is the competition administrator, and she can be reached at ashley@spruceroot.org or 907-209-9570. For general questions about the contest, send email to grow@spruceroot.org or call 907-586-9251.

Mighty Bear Roots, Game Creek Family Orchards win 2017 Path to Prosperity contest

Rob Bishop of Game Creek Family Orchards in Hoonah poses with some of his fruit trees. Game Creek Family Orchards supplies fruit trees, tree maintenance and support services, and fresh, locally grown apples to and Southeast Alaska. After years of experimenting with local and disease resistant rootstocks, Game Creek Family Orchards has developed a reputation for producing apple trees uniquely crafted to thrive in Southeast Alaska.

Two Southeast Alaska businesses have won a contest for innovative entrepreneurs. Mighty Bear Roots in Wrangell and Hoonah’s Game Creek Family Orchards will each receive prizes of $25,000 for winning top honors in the Path to Prosperity business competition. Winners were presented with their awards on Thursday evening (Feb. 23) at the annual Innovation Summit in Juneau.

Path to Prosperity, or P2P, is a partnership between The Nature Conservancy and Spruce Root Inc.  This sustainable business development competition grows entrepreneurs whose businesses will have a positive economic, social and environmental impact on communities all across Southeast Alaska. In 2017, the contest focused on food security and food businesses. In 2018, the contest will be open to a variety of business types when it opens in April.

Dixie and Chris Booker of Mighty Bear Roots of Wrangell. Mighty Bear Roots is an aeroponic greenhouse start-up that will provide the community of Wrangell with a local source of fresh healthy produce. The clean and green operation will utilize energy efficient full spectrum LED lighting, solar panels, rain catch and ground-to-air heat transfer systems to reduce its ecological footprint while growing delicious, healthy food that doesn’t need to be barged in.

Mighty Bear Roots is an aeroponic greenhouse start-up that will provide the community of Wrangell with a local source of fresh healthy produce.

“The Path to Prosperity has really helped us organize our thinking around our business” says Dixie Booker, the company’s co-founder. “We are excited for the potential to enhance our community’s food security and bring fresh produce to Wrangell. I highly recommend P2P for anyone who wants to start or further a small business.”

Game Creek Family Orchards supplies fruit trees, tree maintenance and support services, and fresh, locally grown apples to and Southeast Alaska.  After years of experimenting with local and disease resistant rootstocks, Game Creek Family Orchards has developed a reputation for producing apple trees uniquely crafted to thrive in Southeast Alaska.

Over the past four years, P2P has received 197 applications from 24 Southeast Alaska communities representing 12 different industries. In addition, 60 entrepreneurs have participated in P2P’s intensive Business Boot Camp workshops. There are now 11 Path to Prosperity winners in Southeast Alaska, all of whom continue to grow and build their businesses in ways that contribute to the community, are environmentally sustainable and are profitable.

“We’re very excited about not only this year’s winners but the entire group of 12 finalists we brought to our Business Boot Camp in September,” says Paul Hackenmueller, Spruce Root program manager and P2P administrator. “Each year the competition has grown more competitive. You can see the impact the program and, more importantly, our contestants are having on their local communities and the region.”

There are more and more signs that P2P, which began as a unique experiment in 2013, has proven itself as a dynamic program that’s making a difference in Southeast Alaska.

“These food businesses don’t only create local jobs; they also decrease the environmental impacts of shipping and transport, and provide food security and healthy food choices in our communities,” says Christine Woll, who directs Southeast Alaska programs for The Nature Conservancy. “These types of businesses are key to building a prosperous triple-bottom-line future for Southeast Alaska.”

Continued Growth
After focusing on food, the 2018 competition will once again be open to sustainable businesses from any industry. “Strengthening local food systems in Southeast Alaska is important to The Nature Conservancy and Spruce Root, but we know there are businesses of all stripes that can benefit from the P2P experience,” Hackenmueller says. “We’ve already seen a lot of interest in the 2018 competition, so I anticipate we’ll see another group of passionate, motivated entrepreneurs for out next Boot Camp in the fall.”

About Spruce Root
Our goal is to build community resiliency. We believe a strong locally controlled economy creates the foundation for a healthy and thriving community. Spruce Root promotes economic development and job creation in Southeast Alaska by providing access to small business loans and business advisory services. Spruce Root is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization.

Spruce Root was founded by Haa Aaní LLC in 2012 under Haa Aaní Community Development Fund Inc. with the goal of improving access to capital for entrepreneurs in Southeast Alaska.

Learn more at www.spruceroot.org | 907.586.9251 |  grow@spruceroot.org

About The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy envisions a world where the diversity of life thrives, and people act to conserve nature for its own sake and its ability to fulfill our needs and enrich our lives. As a non-profit conservation organization, the Conservancy is committed to solving big challenges to nature and human well-being. For nearly 30 years, The Nature Conservancy in Alaska has crafted lasting science-based conservation solutions with diverse partners all across the state. Learn more at www.nature.org/alaska.