Two Southeast Alaska businesses — Kaasei Training & Consulting and Coastal Heating & Repair — recently were selected as winners of the 2020 Path to Prosperity economic development contest. As winners, Kaasei Training and Coastal Heating were awarded $25,000 each for consulting and technical services. The winners were announced on Feb. 9, during the 2021 Mid-Session Summit hosted by Southeast Conference in Juneau.
Kaasei Training & Consulting works to revitalize traditional knowledge of Indigenous plants and foods by holding workshops and trainings that encourage participants to deepen their connections to self, community, and the environment. Kaasei is run by Naomi Michalsen, a Tlingít chef and grandmother who is based in Ketchikan. Kaasei’s harvesting, preserving and cooking workshops help participants further their understanding of their beautiful surroundings, increase appreciation for the deep cultural history of the Indigenous people of Alaska, and gain knowledge of harvesting ethically and respectfully.
Coastal Heating & Repair (no website) is a start-up business owned by Jimmi and Starr Jensen that will provide the community of Yakutat with heating and plumbing services, giving residents the opportunity to have cleaner, safer, and more energy efficient homes. Jimmi, who is Iñupiaq, has more than 10 years of experience as a heating technician and has provided this service to residents of Yakutat for several years as a “side job.” Starr, who is Tlingít and Koyukon Athabascan, will support the finance and scheduling side of the business. Jimmi and Starr are thrilled to be able to do this work full time as a means to support their family and hometown of Yakutat.
These two companies were chosen from 12 finalist businesses from Southeast Alaska that participated in the Path to Prosperity’s Business Boot Camp in September in Juneau. This group included Equinox and Sitka Flowers & the Chocolate Moose from Sitka; a third Sitka business, TIDES Education Associates, was selected but didn’t complete the program. They were chosen from 18 businesses from six Southeast Alaska communities that applied for the 2020 Path to Prosperity contest. The 2020 contest focused on minority-owned businesses only, so applications were down from previous years.
The following businesses were selected as 2020’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
- Well-Being, Adrianna Oliva, Ketchikan
- Xíinaansdla, Marita Tolson, Hydaburg
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 23 communities. The program has trained 101 finalists at Business Boot Camp and awarded 17 winners $560,000 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 Foundroot seeds (Haines), Village Coffee Company (Yakutat) ,Skyaana Coffee Co. (Klawock), Barnacle Foods (Juneau), The Salty Pantry (Petersburg), Port Chilkoot Distillery (Haines), Icy Straits Lumber (Hoonah), and others.
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 2021 Path to Prosperity competition will open on April 1 and will close on May 31. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.