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UAA Business Plan Competition Winners Include Start-ups for Indigenous Eco-tourism and a Tiny Home Community

Apr 1, 2021 | Education, News, Small Business

From left to right: Aimee Hassell, Tiny Haven; Kiana Till and Karen Evanoff, Qizhjeh Vena; and Helena Wisniewski and Jim Kostka, judges.

UAa College of Business and Public Policy

The College of Business and Public Policy is pleased to announce the winners of its 2021 Business Plan Competition, which culminated last week when four finalists presented their plans to a panel of judges and 80 attendees at the Perfect Pitch event. This year’s competition was open to both UAA students and community members. 

Telequana Outdoor Journeys, which recently changed its name to Qizhjeh Vena, took the Grand Prize for a plan to provide Indigenously-influenced ecotourism experiences in the Lake Clark area. Business partners include Kiana Till, a student at Alaska Pacific University, Karen Evanoff, a cultural anthropologist with Lake Clark National Park, and Danielle Stickman. Their group also tied for the People’s Choice award, for a grand total of $7,250 in prize money.

Aimee Hassell, a UAA student and employee, won second place and tied for People’s Choice with her business, Tiny Haven, a start-up that endeavors to build a community of tiny homes to provide affordable student housing during the school year and accommodations for tourists in the summer months. Her two awards totaled $3,750. 

“This competition aims to inspire entrepreneurship that can contribute to economic growth in Alaska and to provide a forum for community engagement,” says competition organizer Dr. Helena Wisniewski, who is a seasoned entrepreneur and Chair of the Department of Management, Marketing, Logistics and Business Analytics.

“It was exciting to see the diversity of the startups and the business acumen shown in the final pitches. It confirmed the talent we have in Alaska to grow and diversify the economy.”

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Alaska Business April 2021 Cover

April 2021

“As a judge, I am always amazed at the business ideas the participants bring forward, the caliber of the business plans, and the motivation shown during their presentations,” says Jim Kostka, Chief Operating Officer and Owner of Alaskan Data Solutions, which also developed the new First Fortune $500 Award.

“Without a doubt, these students have a solid understanding of every aspect of the business plan, and will go on to be outstanding employees/team members in the business community or will be emerging as the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

The 2021 Business Plan Competition began in October 2020 and included a series of events designed to inspire and guide contestants to create well-developed business plans and a “perfect pitch.” Participants were mentored by business executives, entrepreneurs and investors.

“It’s a tremendous experience for all the entrepreneurial competitors,” says John Nofsinger, CBPP interim dean. “They get education, mentoring and exposure to successful business professionals. All of the participants this year were terrific and I endeavor to witness their ideas flourish.”

“We learned a lot through this process,” says Hassell. “How to do the perfect pitch, how to look at our business plan in a different way. We had very strict guidelines on how to submit. I want to thank all the judges and the mentors for the help that they provided through the process.”

“This gave us the boost to really feel launched,” says Till, who had worked on her business plan for two years. She was motivated to write a third version of her plan when she learned about the competition. “I was super excited to see something local and geared towards entrepreneurs! Thanks to the awesome guidelines listed in the rule book, this is the best version of the plan I’ve ever written.”

“Judging the excellent submissions in the Business Plan Competition this year was an absolute joy,” says Joe Zimmerman, business owner and chair of CBPP’s Advisory Board.

“It was inspiring to review the creative ideas submitted and the solid plans for putting these concepts into practice. I see a lot of successes for our economy as plans such as these contribute to our future.”

Alaska Business Magazine April 2021 Cover

In This Issue

The Corporate 100

April 2021

Alaska Business has been celebrating the corporations that have a significant impact on Alaska’s economy since 1993. At the time, the corporations weren’t ranked as the list didn’t have specific ranking criteria. Instead, the Alaska Business editorial team held long, detailed, and occasionally passionate discussions about which organizations around the state were providing jobs, owned or leased property, used local vendors, demonstrated a high level of community engagement, and in general enriched Alaska.

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