Composting, ecotours, distillery in running for Path to Prosperity prize

Path to Prosperity semifinalists attend a class during the 2013 Business Boot Camp. (Photo courtesy Haa Aanì)
Path to Prosperity semifinalists attend a class during the 2013 Business Boot Camp. (Photo courtesy Haa Aanì)

Southeast Alaska entrepreneurs are getting a second chance to win $40,000 to develop regional businesses. It’s part of a partnership involving a Native corporation and a conservation group that made its first awards last year.

The Petersburg Indian Association has been developing a small compost business.

The association’s Jason Wilson says it uses local products.

“We take the fish waste [from Petersburg fisheries] and then we have alder wood chips from clearing of the roads and then we also have sawdust. And we mix it all together and let it compost. And voila!” Wilson says.

The association is one of 12 semifinalists in a program called Path to Prosperity. It’s supported by Haa Aaní, part of the Sealaska regional Native corporation, and The Nature Conservancy.

Alana Peterson is economic development coordinator for Haa Aaní.

“We really are looking at businesses that want to improve their communities, create jobs and do so in a way that doesn’t deplete resources and that solves existing needs in the communities,” Peterson says.

Peterson, who’s based in Sitka, says the 12 semifinalists were chosen from a pool of 27 applicants.

They’ll spend the next few months developing their plans. One step is a business boot camp weekend to be held in Juneau during September.

“At the boot camp we connect them with industry professionals that can help them fill in the gaps and try to answer questions that they might have,” she says.

The business plans are due in early December and the two winners will be announced in late January. An online survey will then pick a people’s choice winner. All will receive $40,000 in consulting and technical services.

Peterson says all the proposals look worthwhile. One, from Kasaan, would expand cultural tours in the Haida village on Prince of Wales Island.

“Their business idea is really to put together a gift shop and offer a real ecotourism experience for the independent traveler so people who want to come in and really experience what it is like to be in Kasaan and what kind of village it is,” she says.

Other semifinalists include a Haines distillery, a Sitka otter-fur sewing business, a Petersburg fish-processor and a Juneau coffee shop.

Wilson, of the Petersburg Indian Association, says its compost project is ripe for expansion.

“If we make it through, it would be nice to be able to just have a business that was going to be completely sustainable, because we’re using all sustainable elements in the product itself,” Wilson says. “It would be nice to just to be able to have a system in place that really just paid for itself because we’re doing a good thing with the environment.”

He says compost is concentrated and dried. That keeps shipping and storage costs low.

The business would employ about two people at the start. But eventually, he’d like to have several more working on the business.

Last year’s Path to Prosperity finalists were Raven Guitars of Wrangell and Hoonah and Icy Straits Lumber of Hoonah.

This year’s 12 semi-finalists are:

Business Name:
1. Tonka Seafoods, Inc
2. Port Chilkoot Distillery
3. Sea Fur Sewing
4. Edens Marine Resources
5. PIA SeaLife Compostsn.
6. Coppa
7. Fairweather Ski Works
8. The Sawmill Farm
9. Whale House Tours
10. Keku Products, LLC
11. SeaMonster Seafoods
12. The Annaken House
Principal Applicant:
Seth Scrimsher
Heather Shade
Robert Miller
James A. Edens
Jason Wilson
Marc Wheeler
Ian Seward
Bobbi Daniels
Carrie Sykes
Adam Davis
John Foss
Aimme Youmans
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