Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Seed company finalist in regional business contest


July 18, 2019

Foundroot, Haines’ Alaska proven seed company, is one of 11 finalists for the 2019 Path to Prosperity award, a Southeast Alaska sustainable business development grant.

Juneau-based nonprofit, Spruce Root, hosts an annual contest for the Path to Prosperity award to enhance small businesses and startups in southeast Alaska. All participants are trained in the triple-bottom-line method, an approach where entrepreneurs equally weigh profitability with environmental and social impacts of a business.

The June 11 announcement marks the beginning of an eight-month process for Foundroot owners Leah Wagner and Nick Schlosstein.

In September, the couple will travel to Juneau for a three-day boot camp, where finalists will receive technical assistance in writing a business plan that they will work on through December. Judges will be sourced from different industries all over the state, program manager Ashley Snookes said.

In February, two winners will be awarded $25,000 to be invested in consulting.

For Foundroot, Wagner said the money could be used to hire a CPA and a marketing firm to expand their business and reach more Alaskans in retail stores across the state.

After seven years of hard labor building their farm in Haines, Wagner said Foundroot is finally becoming the business it was intended to be.

Up until last year, the company sold seeds sourced from farms across the nation while they built up a commercial sized quantities they’d grown themselves.

Last season, Foundroot produced its first six crops of seeds adapted to the Alaskan climate. Their varieties are bred to thrive with short seasons, early ripening and long daylight hours.

“As our farm develops, we’re able to transition more of our seeds into Alaska grown seeds,” Wagner said. “The more we have, the more useful it is to all Alaskans.”

Wagner added that the award money would allow the couple to invest in their business full-time.

“This would allow us to really put our energy towards Foundroot, because having to work outside the business to be able to afford things like a CPA or a marketing firm just keeps you treading water,” she said.

Foundroot will compete against businesses including a seaweed snack company from Juneau, a tribal-owned coffee shop in Saxman, and a marine construction and welding company in Petersburg.

Past local recipients of the Path to Prosperity award are Port Chilkoot Distillery in 2014, Fairweather Ski Works in 2014, and Mud Bay Lumber Company in 2018.


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