Coffee and Kelp Take the Path to Prosperity
Seed money awarded
Tina Steffan (left) and Matt Kern are the top winners in the latest Path to Prosperity partnership awards. Steffan's Skya'ana Coffee Co. and Kern's Wild Alaska Kelp Co. were recognized as innovative entrepreneurs.
Images courtesy of Michael Penn
Two Southeast Alaska businesses have been recognized as innovative entrepreneuers. Skya’ana Coffee Co. and Wild Alaska Kelp Co. 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.
Path to Prosperity (P2P) is a partnership between The Nature Conservancy and Spruce Root Inc., formerly the Haa Aaní Community Development Fund Inc. The goal of the P2P sustainable business development competition is to grow entrepreneurs in Southeast Alaska whose businesses will have a positive economic, social and environmental impact on their communities.
Skya’ana Coffee opened in 2015 and is a coffee roaster and coffee shop that offers pastries, wraps, teriyaki and fresh espresso. The company is Native-owned and located in Klawock, Alaska. “The entire experience with P2P, especially the mentoring and networking, has been life changing for me and the future of my business,” said Tina Steffen, the company’s founder. “Learning the importance of being a triple-bottom-line company has completely changed the way I look at being a business owner. I am so thankful for these opportunities.”
Wild Alaska Kelp Co. sources the seasonal surplus of Southeast Alaskan edibles and crafts delicious shelf-stable products. The first line of products feature bull kelp as the principle ingredient to make salsas, pickles, relish, and dried seasoning blends. Matt Kern, co-founder of Wild Alaska Kelp Co., says participating in the Path to Prosperity business competition introduced him to a community of ambitious entrepreneurs from across Southeast Alaska while teaching key lessons in writing a solid business plan. “The Path to Prosperity business boot camp is an experience that you can’t emulate in any other way,” Kern says. He credits Path to Prosperity with inspiring him to incorporate the three “P’s” of sustainable business – people, profit and the planet – into his business plan in very specific ways.
Over the past four years, P2P has received 159 applications from 22 Southeast Alaska communities representing 12 different industries. In addition, 48 entrepreneurs have participated in P2P’s intensive Business Boot Camp workshops. There are now nine P2P contest winners in Southeast Alaska, all of whom continue to grow and build their sustainable businesses.
“We’re very excited about not only this year’s winners but the entire group of 12 finalists we brought to our Business Boot Camp in September,” says Paul Hackenmueller, economic development coordinator and P2P administrator. “Each year the competition has grown more competitive. You can see the impact the program and, more importantly, our contestants are having on their local communities and the region.”
There are more and more signs that P2P, which began as a unique experiment in 2013, has proven itself as a dynamic program that’s making a difference in Southeast Alaska.
“We’re continuing to see even more innovation and ingenuity from Path to Prosperity applicants,” says Christine Woll, who directs Southeast Alaska programs for The Nature Conservancy. “This is an encouraging sign for our region because these businesses will strengthen our communities today and far into the future.”
With the success of the competition, P2P is moving in a new direction: The 2017 competition will focus exclusively on food entrepreneurs. “Strengthening local food systems in SE Alaska is important to The Nature Conservancy and Spruce Root, as well as many of our community and entrepreneur partners,” Hackenmueller says. The 2017 competition cycle will be tailored to local food producers, aggregators, processors, harvesters and distributors for the coming year.
About Spruce Root
Our goal is to build community resiliency. We believe a strong locally controlled economy creates the foundation for a healthy and thriving community. Spruce Root promotes economic development and job creation in Southeast Alaska by providing access to small business loans and business advisory services. Spruce Root is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization.
Spruce Root was founded by Haa Aaní LLC in 2012 under Haa Aaní Community Development Fund Inc. with the goal of improving access to capital for entrepreneurs in Southeast Alaska.
About The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy envisions a world where the diversity of life thrives, and people act to conserve nature for its own sake and its ability to fulfill our needs and enrich our lives. As a non-profit conservation organization, the Conservancy is committed to solving big challenges to nature and human well-being. For nearly 30 years, The Nature Conservancy in Alaska has crafted lasting science-based conservation solutions with diverse partners all across the state. Learn more at www.nature.org/alaska.