Sitka Food Co-op one of 12 finalists in 2017 Path to Prosperity business development contest

The Sitka Food Co-op is one of 12 finalists in the 2017 Path to Prosperity (P2P) business development contest for Southeast Alaska food businesses.

The Co-op now moves into Round 2, where the 12 finalists will attend a business boot camp in Juneau this fall for mentoring and a chance to better develop their business models and plans. Two of the 12 finalists will be selected as winners in December, earning $25,000 in seed funding for consulting and technical services to develop their businesses.

The Sitka Food Co-op is the only Path to Prosperity finalist from Sitka, joining businesses from Craig, Haines (2), Hoonah, Juneau (2), Ketchikan, Klawock (2) and Wrangell (2). There were 38 food businesses from 10 Southeast Alaska communities that entered the contest this year, which is sponsored by Spruce Root Inc. (formerly Haa Aaní Community Development, a subsidiary of Sealaska), The Nature Conservancy, and joining as sponsor this year, the Southeast Alaska Watershed Council (SAWC). This is the fifth year of the Path to Prosperity contest, but the first year the contest has been focused only on food businesses.

“Being selected as one of the twelve finalists in the Path To Prosperity competition is quite an honor,” said Keith Nyitray, Sitka Food Co-op general manager. “Win or lose, it will be exciting to meet and network with the other 11 finalists, especially since we’re all food-related. Hopefully some of those finalists will even become local/regional suppliers to the Co-op.”

After encouraging a variety of businesses over the past few years, this year the focus was on building food security in the region. Eligible applicants this year had to be involved in the growing, harvesting, processing, aggregation, preparation or distribution of food. Local food systems and community food security are of critical importance to the region and the sponsors.

“Creating access to local foods is essential to building sustainable economies and resilient communities in Southeast Alaska,” says SAWC Local Foods Director Lia Heifetz. “We are excited to empower entrepreneurs and businesses who want to provide and catalyze local foods for our region in a way that balances the stewardship of land and water and positive social and cultural impact.”

“Alaskans import 95% of the food we consume each year, yet we’re surrounded by nature’s bounty,” says Path to Prosperity program manager Paul Hackenmueller. “The P2P program has a chance to kick-start innovative food entrepreneurs in southeast by providing key resources that will help grow our regional food economy. This is a great group of finalists with some creative and promising business concepts.”

The 12 finalists are:

Business Name Location Applicant
1. Beaver Sisters Kombucha Craig Bettina Brentano
2. PermaFoodScaping Haines Andrew Cardella
3. Sarah J’s Espresso Shoppe Haines Sarah Jaymot
4. Game Creek Family Orchard Hoonah Robert Bishop
5. Happy Camper Juneau Amanda Kraft
6. Panhandle Produce Juneau Eli Wray
7. H20 Grow Ketchikan Kenneth White
8. Klawock Cooperative Association Klawock Quinn Aboudara
9. Wildfish Cannery Klawock Mathew Scaletta
10. Sitka Food Co-Op Sitka Keith Nyitray
11. The Local Isle Wrangell Holly Padilla
12. Mighty Bear Roots Wrangell Dixie Booker

“The Sitka Food Co-op has always believed there was a demand for the services it could provide and these past six years have proven that to be true,” Nyitray said. “We’ve grown and in ways that were almost unimaginable at the very beginning and we are proud to have achieved the level of success and community involvement that we have so far.”

All 12 finalists will participate in a three-day business boot camp Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 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. Spruce Root Executive Director, Ed Davis, highlights the importance of the workshop to building the regions entrepreneurial ecosystem. “The goal of the workshop is to deliver as much value as possible to the business owners, so when they return to their communities they’re able to implement what they’ve learned and build successful businesses, regardless of whether or not they win the competition,” says Davis. “This capacity development is how we build a culture of entrepreneurship in Southeast Alaska.”

“Of course, the next step in the competition is to focus on developing a detailed and forward looking business plan — our own personalized path to prosperity if you will,” Nyitray said. “Should we become one of the two winners of the competition that plan — along with all the technical and financial help the award will bring — will definitely be a huge boost to improving our operation and it would most certainly increase our ability to ‘Bring Good Food and Community Together.'”

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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.