Four residents qualify for business 'boot camp'
Of nearly 60 applications submitted by aspiring entrepreneurs around Southeast, four Haines residents have reached the semifinals of the Path to Prosperity business competition and will travel to Juneau for a “business boot camp” Oct. 11-13.
Scott Hansen, Tamsen Cassidy, Debra Schnabel, Carol Tuynman and eight others from around Southeast advanced to the semifinals in the competition, which is sponsored by the Nature Conservancy and Sealaska’s Haa Aani Community Development Fund, Inc.
Individuals, for-profit businesses and tribal entities could submit a feasible business idea that was to have a positive social impact, increase local employment, and encourage sustainable use of natural resources.
Cassidy’s Klehini Grange Feed and Seed, Schnabel’s Glacier Ground Rocknobs, Tuynman’s 7 Echoes Homestead, and Hansen’s Chilkoot Indian Enterprises wood pellet factory will compete to be one of two finalists. Each finalist will win up to $40,000 in seed funding for consulting and technical services to develop their proposed business. Finalists also will receive support in finding investor funding.
Cassidy’s plan involves establishing a multi-use community center and store in Mosquito Lake. Not only would the business carry organic animal feed, gardening supplies, husbandry equipment and materials to promote subsistence living, it would also double as a space for crafting classes, film screenings, open mic nights, and other community events.
“It has been in my mind for quite a long time. I’ve always enjoyed being able to go somewhere that is alcohol-free and family-friendly and listen to music... It could be a store and a gathering place of sorts,” she said.
Cassidy, who owns goats, ducks, geese, alpacas and a pony, said her neighbors who also own animals have expressed frustration over a lack of affordable, accessible organic feed.
“I find that it is difficult to get feed for my animals. It’s not always quality feed. A lot of people would like to get natural, organic, GMO-free feed and it’s not really possible to do that now,” Cassidy said.
When asked what she hopes to learn at the two-day “boot camp,” which will include professional workshops, networking opportunities, and one-on-one consulting, Cassidy said “everything.”
“I’m starting at ground zero. I’m hoping regardless that I will learn how to run a business. Whatever I learn will be profitable to me,” she said.
Chilkoot Indian Association’s Scott Hansen isn’t starting from ground zero. CIA has already conducted a feasibility study on building a wood-pellet plant in Haines, but Hansen said attending the Path to Prosperity boot camp will allow him to explore the less technical aspects of the project and more of the business part.
“We have the technical out of the way, I think, and now it is what your next steps are and how do you advertise, how do you market, those kinds of things,” Hansen said.
CIA is currently exploring whether a factory in Haines could operate using local wood that is relatively wet. The tribe currently has a request for proposals out for a device that de-barks, chips and dries wood to the point that it can fit into the machine that makes the pellets, Hansen said.
Not only would a factory create jobs, but money would stay in the community: it would be produced locally, sold locally, and bought locally, Hansen said. Wood pellet energy also is more sustainable and better for the environment than other forms of energy, such as diesel, he said.
Semi-finalist Debra Schnabel also wants to create a factory of sorts: a “rocknob” factory.
Schnabel, an avid dog-walker, said she started pocketing attractive rocks on her many strolls around local beaches. Instead of just admiring them, though, she made them functional: by attaching a small shank to the stone, a pretty rock can be turned into a unique, chic cabinet knob.
“I have been making them for four or five years, and many people have told me that they are beautiful and wonderful and I should do it commercially, not on a hobby level,” Schnabel said.
If she were to start a business, Schnabel said she would like a guaranteed portion of the profits to go toward the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, as she would like to see “bigs and littles” going on rock-hunting adventures as part of their activities.
Like CIA’s wood pellet factory, semi-finalist Carol Tuynman also already has her foot in the door. Tuynman began working on 7 Echoes four years ago, and has since used the firm to facilitate energy-efficient construction projects, teach permaculture classes, and promote downtown revitalization.
Tuynman, who referred to 7 Echoes as “a springboard for new ideas to energize the local economy with cultural and educational opportunities,” said she wants to come out of the “boot camp” with a solid business plan that can generate revenue for future projects, including a high-tunnel greenhouse.
Along with the Alaska Arts Confluence, 7 Echoes was behind the decoration of seven empty Main Street windows and soon will be decorating seven more. Featured artists will include Tim Shields, Alexandra Feit, Megan Morehouse, Alexis Alamillo, Gene Kennedy, and Kelly Mitchell. One window also will showcase a children’s Tlingit button blanket made at Alaska Indian Arts in the 1960s.
Mayor Stephanie Scott said she’s not surprised four semi-finalists are from Haines.
“I think this outcome is an extension of the same energy that created the public library, the museum, the arts council, the American Bald Eagle Foundation, our many small businesses... It is the ‘other’ story of Haines; a story that we sometimes forget to tell ourselves when we become embroiled in difficulties,” Scott said.