Alaska “boot camp” aims to build Bristol Bay community businesses
Investment that comes from within, not from without, is the motivation behind a boot camp that will jump start and nurture businesses in communities throughout Bristol Bay.
Through 15 September, locals with good ideas, start-ups, or existing businesses across the region will compete to attend a three day “boot camp” that provides in-depth business education, networking, and advice.
First, they must make the grade in a simple application process. The 10 or 12 who make that cut will go to the boot camp and be judged on business feasibility and contributions to their community. Three winners will receive up to USD 20,000 (EUR 18,031) in grants for consulting and technical assistance.
The business boosters include the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, The Nature Conservancy of Alaska, and the Bristol Bay Development Fund, a subsidiary of BBNC that is infusing USD 5 million (EUR 4.5 million) of “nurture capital” into local businesses that benefit its nearly 10,000 shareholders.
“Guided by our traditions, we also know that investing in the culture, education, and sustainable future of our communities pays off for all of us,” BBNC states on its website.
The group has partnered with the Path to Prosperity (P2P) program by Spruce Roots, Inc., an arm of the Juneau-based Sealaska Native Corporation that focuses on business coaching, technical assistance, and tailored loans.
Over six years, P2P has provided management training and mentoring to nearly 80 Southeast businesses. The Coppa ice cream shop in Juneau, for example, went on to win top honors at the Symphony of Seafood and jars of Barnacle Foods kelp salsa varieties are in stores throughout Alaska and nationwide.
Path to Prosperity received the Silver Award for Excellence in Economic Development by the International Economic Development Council in 2015.
“They provide assistance all along the way, even if you just want some feedback on your application. It only asks about six questions to see if your business concept has any legs,” said Dave Griffin, executive director of the Southwest Alaska Municipal League (SWAMC) which represents the Bristol Bay region.
“It’s all about the sustainability of small communities,” Griffin added. “It’s also a way to show entrepreneurial spirit in a community. If you see a small business startup and it’s successful, it gives something for the next generation. They see that if they want to stay in their community where jobs are so limited, they can make their own job by starting a business. It’s something they can take pride in. And it’s kind of the American way to be a small businessperson doing well.”