Join the 2021 Local Foods Challenge to make the Southeast Alaska food system more resilient

ARE YOU UP FOR CHALLENGE?

Food is not just about what we eat. It’s also about where it comes from and the connections it creates between people and places along the way. Join us on a journey to explore and transform Southeast Alaska’s food system by being part of the Local Foods Challenge.

As a participant in this Challenge, you will join others in reshaping and fostering resilience within our local and regional food systems while increasing community wellness for both the short and long-term.

We ask you to deepen your involvement in the local food system by cultivating and elevating your personal knowledge, skills, and connection to the local food system within your community.

HERE’S HOW IT WORKS

When you sign up, you’ll take a survey to assess your involvement in 10 distinct categories of the local food system. Your challenge from May to September is to deepen your connection to the local food system by increasing your level of engagement for each category. The more levels you go, the more resilient our food system will be by September. At the end of the challenge, we will tally the progress of all of the challengers to discover how much we collectively shift our food system’s resilience.

To help you on this local food journey, we will connect you to resources related to all 10 categories, and we will share stories via email and social media to inspire and celebrate our successes.

The Local Foods Challenge is about building a community of Southeast Alaskans who care about local foods. We will share knowledge, resources, place-based advice, and best practices across our unique region.

Together we will forge a resilient, prosperous, and healthy Southeast Alaska.

READY TO PARTICIPATE?

You will be at different levels with each category, and over the course of this summer, you will increase your knowledge, skills, and engagement with each of them in ways that are meaningful and relevant to your life. Set realistic, specific, meaningful goals.

  • Check your email twice a month for announcements, inspiration, tips, and invitations to monthly skillshare workshops, virtual meet-ups, mini-challenges, and more.
  • Follow us on social media updates and reminders.
  • Check out our Resources page to get started, and our Calendar of Events for upcoming opportunities.
  • Share your success stories.
  • Nominate local foods experts who can share their knowledge and skills with others, and we will connect them to learners in their community.
  • Celebrate a Southeast Alaska season of abundance and resilience.

Questions? Email localfoodschallenge.seak@gmail.com or post a comment on our Facebook page.

Kaasei Training & Consulting and Coastal Heating & Repair win $25,000 each in 2020 Path to Prosperity business development contest

Naomi Michalsen, left (with granddaughter, Quinn), of Kaasei Training & Consulting in Ketchikan and Jimmi Jensen of Coastal Heating & Repair of Yakutat are the winners of $25,000 worth of consulting and technical services from the 2020 Path to Prosperity business development contest.

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.

A sample of traditional foods prepared by Kaasei Training & Consulting.

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

A sample of traditional foods prepared by Kaasei Training & Consulting

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 grow@spruceroot.org.

Spruce Root, Sustainable Southeast Partnership, other groups to host 2021 Kelp and Oyster Farming Workshop

Spruce Root, the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, and other organizations are offering a free, online workshop that will provide tools and training for Alaska Natives in Southeast Alaska interested in starting kelp, oyster, or multi-species ocean farms. The workshop will begin on the evening of Thursday, March 18, and continue with day-long sessions on Friday and Saturday, March 19-20. The workshop will be delivered using Zoom.

This workshop is co-hosted by Spruce Root, Sustainable Southeast Partnership (SSP), Ecotrust, GreenWave, the Organized Village of Kake (OVK), the Native American Agriculture Fund, and the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF).

The program is free, but space is limited to 24 participants –– selected through an application process. Project partners at Spruce Root will review applications and select participants based on the thoughtfulness of responses to application questions. The application period closes on Feb. 19. Selected applicants will be notified by Feb. 26.

Topics covered include:

  • an overview of kelp and oyster harvest and cultivation, and field identification of seaweed species
  • logistics of collecting, growing, and purchasing seed
  • farm site evaluation and planning, leasing, and permitting
  • farm design and build out
  • harvesting and processing techniques, and quality handling
  • business planning and farm financing
  • and more.

Information and instruction will be provided by GreenWave, Alaska Sea Grant, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Alaska Department of Fish & Game, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, Spruce Root, The Native Conservancy, and others. 

All interested Southeast Alaska residents are invited to apply, however, priority will be given to Southeast Alaska Native residents.

Participants will need access to the internet and a computer, tablet, or smartphone in order to participate in the sessions and view presentations and panel discussions. 

Following the workshop, participants may be eligible for one-on-one mentoring and, pending safety and travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, participation in farm tours and other hands-on activities at a later date. Participants will be expected to attend and complete the workshop to be eligible for mentoring and hands-on activities.

Materials, final workshop times, and other workshop information will be distributed to selected participants prior to the technical workshops.

If you have questions about this program, you can contact Aaron Ferguson (aaron@spruceroot.org) or Lindsay Olsen (lindsay@greenwave.org). Click this link for the online application.

Southeast Alaska Traditional Plants Summit and Celebration goes online on Oct. 1-3

The Southeast Alaska Traditional Plants Summit and Celebration will take place on Oct. 1-3 using Zoom online meetings. There will be presentations from 1-4 p.m. each day, a plant talk meet-and greet from 4-5 p.m., and interactive discussions from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

This event is open to elders, youth, harvesters, and interested community members. It is a virtual gathering to bring together Alaska Native plant harvesters from around Southeast Alaska to learn, appreciate, and network with each other to celebrate traditional edible and medicinal plants, and to discuss and share respectful harvesting guidelines, protocols, and best practices to share with their communities. The summit will also feature plant videos and a food sovereignty showcase of projects from around Southeast Alaska.

The event will use Zoom, but people can call in by telephone, if desired. Registration is required. There is no cost to join. Here is the link to register, https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcrdeqoqDorGNGTDAXMAApAttDZdC99S-c0. To access a draft schedule, click this link.

This event is being organized by the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition, Spruce Root, Kaasei Training and Consulting, and Planet Alaska, with support from the Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF). Special thanks to Haa Tóo Yéi Yatee culture camp and Huna Heritage Foundation.

We are thankful to our respectful harvesting working group for helping plan this event and draft a white paper of respectful harvesting guidelines for Southeast Alaska, based on the work of the Kayaaní Commission and harvesters from around Southeast Alaska. These guidelines will be sent to all registered participants to be discussed at the last evening session. For questions, please contact Jennifer Nu at jennifer@sawcak.org

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.

 

Join the 2020 Local Foods Challenge to make the Southeast Alaska food system more resilient

Are you ready for a challenge?

Food is not just about what we eat. It’s also about where it comes from and the connections it creates between people and places along the way.

Join us on a journey to explore and transform Southeast Alaska’s food system by being part of the 2020 Local Foods Challenge. This event is hosted by the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, in collaboration with the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition.

As a participant in this Challenge, you will join others in reshaping and fostering resilience within our local and regional food systems while increasing community wellness for both the short and long-term. We ask you to deepen your involvement in the local food system by cultivating and elevating your personal knowledge, skills, and connection to the local food system within your community.

Here’s how it works:

  • When you sign up, you’ll take a survey to assess your involvement in 10 distinct categories of the local food system.
  • Your challenge from May to September is to deepen your connection to the local food system by increasing your level of engagement for each category.
  • The more levels you go, the more resilient our food system will be in September and beyond.
  • At the end of the challenge, we will tally the progress of all of the challengers to discover how much we collectively shifted our food system’s resilience.
  • Participants will receive a certificate of completion and a digital guide with tips for how to stay involved in the local food system all year long.

To help you on this local food journey, we will connect you to resources related to all 10 categories, and we will share stories to inspire and celebrate our successes.

The Local Foods Challenge is about building a community of Southeast Alaskans who care about local foods. We will share knowledge, resources, place-based advice, and best practices across our unique region.

Together we will forge a resilient, prosperous, and healthy Southeast Alaska. Click this link to sign up for the Challenge.

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.

New guide helps Alaska commercial fishermen find markets for their fish

A new publication is targeting Alaska commercial fishermen and processors who want to find markets for their fish.

The guide is a new fisheries business support tool that we are hoping you will help to share called: Resource Guide for Fishermen Interested in Direct Marketing, Alternative Marketing, and Community Supported Fisheries. The guide can be accessed online on the Salt and Soil Marketplace website at https://www.saltandsoilmarketplace.com/vendor-resources, and is also attached as a PDF.

The guide was developed by Kelly Harrell (who now works as chief officer of fisheries and sustainability for Sitka Salmon Shares) on behalf of the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition (SAWC) and Ecotrust, with support from the USDA Local Foods Promotion Program. The guide is intended to draw together a diverse array of information and tools that exist to help direct marketers/CSFs get started and succeed.

“The Local Foods Program at SAWC aims to localize our food system by supporting local food producers whose food lands on the tables of Southeast Alaskans,” said Jennifer Nu, local foods project director for SAWC and food sustainability catalyst for the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. “Kelly Harrell led the effort to understand the unique challenges and needs of direct market fishermen and determine ways to contribute to the success of their businesses. The guide is a comprehensive resource directory of a wide variety of tools for direct marketers and similar seafood businesses. Fishermen can use it to quickly find resources, organizations, and networks. We have already heard from a fisherman in Petersburg who said he wishes he had this resource available to him when he started his business years ago.”

• Resource Guide for Fishermen Interested in Direct Marketing, Alternative Marketing, and Community Supported Fisheries