A Klawock coffee roaster and a Juneau food business are the winners of the 2016 Path to Prosperity Contest.
The Southeast Alaska entrepreneurial competition is entering its fifth year. It’s a partnership of the Nature Conservancy and the Spruce Root Community Development Fund, formerly known as Haa Aani.
Program administrator Paul Hackenmueller says an independent panel of judges selects winners based on the strength of their business plans, but also on their ‘triple bottom line.’
“The triple bottom line is where a business is focused not only on profit, but also how they impact the environment of the surrounding community where they’re doing business, as well as the social and cultural fabric of the place where they’re operating,” Hackenmueller said.
Forty-four businesses from 17 communities applied for Path to Prosperity in 2016. The pool is narrowed down to a dozen finalists, who attend a business boot camp in Juneau.
Lia Heifetz and Matt Kern run the Kelp Company.
“Our long-term vision is to add value to Southeast Alaska’s edible resources,” said Heifetz. “And this past summer we started making products out of wild bull kelp. So we make pickles and relishes and salsas and dried spice blends out of bull kelp.”
Tina Steffen owns Skyaana Coffee in Klawock. Skyaana is the Haida word for ‘to be awake.’ Steffen has run a coffee shop for over ten years. She says there are transportation and quality issues getting product shipped to the remote community on Prince of Wales Island. So, she recently started roasting her own coffee beans.
“We’ve been really happy,” said Steffen. “We know exactly when our beans are roasted, we know that we’ve cut costs considerably. And that’s helped us not to have to raise prices to our customers, because, you know, the economy’s not great here. It’s very dependent on fishing.”
Skyaana Coffee and the Kelp Company will each receive up to $40,000 in seed funding for technical and consulting services.
This year, the Path to Prosperity contest is narrowing its focus. For the upcoming competition, it will accept applications only from food-related businesses. Spruce Root’s Hackenmueller says the goal is to encourage entrepreneurs who help create local food security.
“Here in Southeast Alaska we have tremendous bounty,” said Hackenmueller. “There’s a lot of resources and an incredible amount of potential to grow and produce more local food. So we’re excited that the 2017 P2P competition will be open exclusively to food entrepreneurs.”
Hackenmueller announced the food focus at the Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit in Haines on Feb 25. He said a number of attendees seemed interested in the contest.
The Path to Prosperity 2017 application period opens April 1.
Past winners include Haines’ Port Chilkoot Distillery and Fairweather Ski Works, Petersburg’s Salty Pantry, Sitka’s Sawmill Farm, Juneau’s Coppa, Hoonah’s Icy Straight Lumber and Wrangell’s Raven Guitars.