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Juneau man’s dessert wins Alaska business pitch competition

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – While they rode the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Whittier yesterday, five entrepreneurs presented their business models, funding needs and market research to a panel of judges alongside a live audience. Hosted by the Anchorage Economic Development Corp., the Pitch-on-a-Train competition brought ideas that ranged from commercial Bitcoin applications to drone surveillance technology, but it was Marc Wheeler of the Juneau café Coppa who wooed the judges most with his rhubarb sherbet.

AEDC’s Pitch-on-a-Train wrapped up a week’s worth of events aimed at cultivating entrepreneurship and innovation in the Last Frontier. The train provided a networking venue for local business leaders, as well as an opportunity for select entrepreneurs to share their ideas and receive feedback from a panel of judges that included special guest Terry Jones, former chief information officer for American Airlines and founder of travel websites Travelocity.com and Kayak.com.

The five Alaska entrepreneurs were nominated to make their pitch at the event, which included a 10-minute presentation in front of thepanel and a question and answer session. In addition to Jones, judges included representatives from the State of Alaska, Municipality of Anchorage, angel investment firms, Wells Fargo and business consultants.

"The energy behind entrepreneurship in Alaska has beenamazing,” said Bill Popp, president and CEO of AEDC. “We provided a platform and many Alaskans responded with innovative ideas and spirit that will continue to contribute to our growing economy."

Marc Wheeler of Coppa, an ice cream shop and café in Juneau, presented his idea of dramatically expanding his existing business by adding a mobile location that would meet more than 1 million cruise ship passengers at the Juneau dock each summer. Wheeler’s pitch included the addition of distinctly Alaska-inspired ice cream flavors, along with the locally sourced ingredients that visitors and community members are looking for. Coppa is not only known for its rhubarb sherbet, but for flavors that include Alaska raspberry, Alaska cherry and Alaskan Brewing Co. Smoked Porter brownie and pecan.  

“Not having a taste of our rhubarb sherbet when visiting Alaska would be like not trying gelato on a trip to Italy,” Wheeler told the panel of judges.

After providing the panel with a sample of the rhubarbsherbet, the judges were convinced and named Wheeler the winner of AEDC’s 2014 Pitch-on-a-Train. In addition to business coaching by the panel, Wheeler was awarded 50,000 American Airlines Miles sponsored by Terry Jones, 25,000 Alaska Airlines Miles sponsored by GCI and a three-month membership to The Boardroom, a co-working space in Anchorage with plans to expand to Juneau in 2015.

AEDC is a private, nonprofit membership organization developed in 1987 to encourage growth and to diversify the Anchorage economy. The organization has more than 250 investors, which represent all industries in Anchorage and Alaska. For more information visit www.AEDCweb.com

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