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
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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.

Sustainable Southeast Partnership and Spruce Root Inc. release report on the economic impacts of local produce in Southeast Alaska

The Sustainable Southeast Partnership and Spruce Root Inc. have officially released a report, “Current and Potential Economic Impacts of Locally Grown Produce in Southeast Alaska.” The report, which was first presented at the Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit held in February in Haines, was written by the McDowell Group.

“This study is the first to measure the amount of produce grown in Southeast Alaska,” said Dan Lesh, a research analyst with the McDowell Group. “Even though I’m an avid gardener and lifelong Southeast Alaskan, I was surprised at the high level of gardening we found through the survey. It was also interesting to see what crops people are growing and which are the most productive.”

The 47-page study surveyed residents of several Southeast Alaska communities to try and find out how much food they grew locally, and how much was imported. For example, even though 38 percent of Southeast Alaskans garden, only 4.4 percent of the vegetables eaten in the region were produced locally (and 95.6 percent were imported from the Lower 48 or overseas).

Southeast Alaskans spent $19 million on imported veggies in 2016, and many of those veggies can be grown here in the region. While commercial growers in Southeast Alaska only sold about $180,000 in locally grown produce, gardeners and commercial growers spent about $1.8 million to support growing food in the region. Money spent on locally grown produce tends to circulate within the region instead of going elsewhere.

“There is tremendous opportunity to expand commercial and home-scale food production in Southeast Alaska,” said Lia Heifetz, food security regional catalyst for the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. “This contributes to community and regional food security. There is also significant opportunity to create economic activity through support services — like the local production of seeds and soil, or local sources of agriculture infrastructure and tools — as well as adding value to raw agricultural products. In addition to supporting services, either growing your own food or supporting our region’s food producers through farmers markets, or online farmers markets, like the Salt & Soil Marketplace, is a great way to contribute to localizing our food system.”

The report includes a breakdown of what veggies commercial growers in the region are growing, and what they’re selling for. It also includes a breakdown of what households are growing and consuming. There are charts showing food purchases over the years, and vegetable consumption.

There also is information on trends within the region when it comes to growing veggies, and how that impacts the economy. It details some of the challenges for the region, and what’s being done to meet those challenges. In addition, the report touches on the food security of the region.

“The commercial agriculture industry in Southeast Alaska is clearly at a small scale right now, but there is room for growth and a variety of creative opportunities exist to expand the economic impacts of the industry,” Lesh said. “A lot of new businesses have been created in recent years, with support from Path to Prosperity business competition and other sources. Looking forward to seeing where those businesses go.”

• Current and Potential Economic Impacts of Locally Grown Produce in Southeast Alaska (PDF file)

Path To Prosperity contest seeks innovative food businesses for 2017 competition

Two Southeast Alaska businesses were recognized as innovative entrepreneurs in the 2016 Path To Prosperity sustainable business competition. Skya’ana Coffee Company of Klawock (Tina Steffen, left) and Wild Alaska Kelp Company of Juneau (Matt Kern, right) will each receive up to $40,000 in seed money for consulting/technical assistance to develop the business concept, along with support in finding investor funding. (Photos by Michael Penn, Juneau Empire)

Are you trying to launch or grow a food business?  The 2017 Path To Prosperity Competition (P2P) sustainable business competition aims to identify and support innovative Southeast Alaska food businesses.  Supporting local food businesses reduces Southeast Alaska’s dependence on imports, strengthens community resiliency, and promotes sustainable use of the region’s natural bounty.

Path To Prosperity is a collaboration between The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Spruce Root, Inc. (formerly the Haa Aaní Community Development Fund, Inc.). Spruce Root and TNC are committed to strengthening local food systems by supporting food entrepreneurs from across the region. In previous years, the Path To Prosperity competition included a variety of businesses, such as locally made skis and guitars, but this year the competition is focused on food.

“We’re excited to try something a little different for the next round and connect with the growing local foods movement in Southeast Alaska,” says P2P competition administrator Paul Hackenmueller. “This year’s competition will provide resources to help local food entrepreneurs incorporate social, economic, and environmental sustainability techniques into their business models.”

Eligible businesses must operate primarily in Southeast Alaska and be involved in the growing, harvesting, processing, aggregation, preparation or distribution of food. “P2P applicants can be existing businesses or start-ups, but do not need to submit a full business plan in the first round of the application process,” said Paul Hackenmueller, P2P competition administrator. “We want to encourage new entrepreneurs to apply, even if they haven’t started their business yet, so the Round 1 application doesn’t require a full business plan.  We only ask for a basic description of the business concept.” P2P helps entrepreneurs identify ways to make their businesses profitable, while also having positive social and environmental impacts on their communities.

Twelve applicants will be selected as finalists to advance to Round 2 of the competition and attend P2P’s innovative Business Boot Camp weekend in Juneau. All 12 finalists receive one-on-one mentorship and consulting that they can use to help write their business plans and grow their businesses after they return to their communities. The Boot Camp experience is valuable for all finalists who attend, whether or not they win the competition.

“Thanks to P2P, I have a clear vision of where I am headed and a solid business plan that I developed as the roadmap to the future of our company,” said Tina Steffen of Skya’ana Coffee Company in Klawock, one of two winners of the 2016 competition.

Timeline for 2017 Path To Prosperity Competition

  • April 1, 2017 – Application Period Opens
  • May 9, 2017 – Webinar
  • May 31, 2017 – Applications Due
  • July 7, 2017 – Announce Finalists Advancing to Round 2
  • Sept. 29 to Oct.1, 2017 – Boot Camp Weekend in Juneau
  • Dec. 3, 2017 – Business Plan Submissions Deadline
  • February 2018 –Two Winners Announced

The competition is open to all Southeast Alaska residents.  This includes individuals, for-profit businesses and tribal entities.

For more information on how to apply or learn more, click here.