‘Alaskan Owned’ Boutique Is Gearing Up
The entrepreneurial and small business support networks of the Last Frontier gave Becky Strub the tools she needed to relaunch her startup amid the pandemic.
Alaskan Owned apparel is a for-profit, social enterprise focused on making positive community impacts big and small, says Strub. She explains that the social enterprise model offers more flexibility in running a competitive business and reaching a wider audience while not losing sight of the greater purposes of making the world a better place.
The apparel company, which will officially start offering t-shirts, hoodies, and more to the public in 2022, is targeting Alaskan business owners and operators with their custom designed apparel. The logo of the shirt boldly reads: Alaskan Owned and Operated.
“That is a really key piece to me: that our product is affordable and that people will come back and buy it again and again,” Strub says, explaining that the price point on items is designed to allow them to be more than a souvenir. “I really want people working in this product.”
While the company currently only has one design for their products, Strub is looking to Patagonia for inspiration on how to stick to a core theme for a brand’s designs while also offering variation to meet market demand.
However, it’s about a lot more than generating revenue, Strub says. She pictures a business—headquartered in the Pacific Northwest as the family splits their time between the region and Alaska—that will give back to Alaskans.
“Living rural, I always noticed business leaders who stepped-up and found ways to give back,” Strub writes on her website. “As a result, community awareness and promoting early connections to Alaskan businesses are the foundation for Alaskan Owned apparel.”
Strub, who moved to Valdez with her family when she was 12, recalls watching the owner of Sugar & Spice working late into the evening to ensure kids had their Little Dribbler uniforms. That childhood experience, mixed with witnessing countless other business owners step in as sports coaches and other leaders in the community, made an impact on Strub.
Giving back to Alaskans is baked into the business plan. Strub explains that 50 percent of proceeds from online sales in February and October will be donated back into the Alaska community of the purchaser’s choice with the goal of helping fund local scholarships for college, vocational school, and internships.
Alaskan Owned apparel is also creating resources and tools to help local business leaders share their career stories with Alaskans K-8. The idea is to inform and inspire Alaska’s future decision makers, Strub says.
The right tools and resources are key every step of the way for entrepreneurs, from inspiration to bookkeeping. Strub raves about the lessons and skills she learned through Alaska Startup Week last year.
The annual Techstars Alaska Startup Week is in full swing with a variety of in-person, hybrid, and online events this week.
“When I finished taking all these events, I was just shocked at how much I learned about developing, maintaining, and even closing a business,” Strub says. “I mean, that is part of the process when you write a business plan, it includes an exit strategy.”
However, Strub has no plans to shutter her business any time soon. In fact, she’s confident she’s starting a legacy that her son—a graphic artist working with her on the business—will be able to take over at some point.
Strub explains that she’s also found vital resources for launching her business through the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development, the Alaska Small Business Development Center, and other organizations in the state. Through these organizations she was able to take classes on marketing, business development, and more.
“I was able to continue learning about business type workshops and events and classes that were offered all year long,” Strub says.
Despite the high rate of failure most startups in the Last Frontier—and the Lower 48—face in the first year, Strub is confident that the social enterprise model will give her the flexibility to both turn a profit and give back to the state she loves.
“I’m legacy building, 1,000 percent,” Strub says. “I want to help build up Alaskans.”
In This Issue
The Geophysical Institute at UAF
In September Alexandru Lapadat became the first recipient of the two-year Schaible Geophysical Institute Fellowship, established by Grace Berg Schaible, a former Alaska attorney general and benefactor of the University of Alaska. In 2018, the fellowship’s endowment received a $2.2 million gift from Schaible’s estate, which provided enough of a financial base that the awarding of fellowships could begin.