The Path to Prosperity (P2P) business development competition has selected 12 finalists to advance to the second round of the 2017 program. P2P aims to identify and support new and growing small businesses in Southeast Alaska, especially those implementing sustainable practices into their business models. These businesses’ leadership is key to building social, economic, and environmental resiliency in Southeast Alaskan communities
In Round 2, finalists will participate in P2P’s innovative Business Boot Camp, get access to business mentors from around the region, and receive one-on-one consulting to develop their business models and plans.
P2P is in its fifth year, and is a partnership between Spruce Root, Inc. and The Nature Conservancy. Since 2013, the P2P program has helped develop local companies that are focused on increasing profitability and local employment, while also having a positive socioeconomic impact on their communities, promoting sustainable use of local resources, and magnifying entrepreneurial capacity in Southeast Alaska. To date, P2P has provided training for 12 entrepreneurs at Boot Camp each year, as well as continued mentorship for 9 winning businesses.
Focused on Food
For the 2017 competition, P2P is focused exclusively on Southeast Alaska food businesses. Eligible applicants must be involved in the growing, harvesting, processing, aggregation, preparation or distribution of food. Local food systems and community food security are of critical importance to the region, Spruce Root, TNC, and new P2P sponsor Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition (SAWC). "Creating access to local foods is essential to building sustainable economies and resilient communities in Southeast Alaska," says SAWC Local Foods Director Lia Heifetz. "We are excited to empower entrepreneurs and businesses who want to provide and catalyze local foods for our region in a way that balances the stewardship of land and water and positive social and cultural impact."
“Alaskans import 95% of the food we consume each year, yet we’re surrounded by nature’s bounty," says Path to Prosperity program manager Paul Hackenmueller. "The P2P program has a chance to kick-start innovative food entrepreneurs in southeast by providing key resources that will help grow our regional food economy. This is a great group of finalists with some creative and promising business concepts.”
Building Regional Capacity
All 12 finalists will participate in a three-day business boot camp in Juneau, Alaska, from September 29 – October 1, 2017. All expenses including airfare and lodging will be covered by P2P for the businesses. The intense weekend of workshops covers topics such as business plan writing, sustainable business practices, and accessing financial capital. Spruce Root Executive Director, Ed Davis, highlights the importance of the workshop to building the regions entrepreneurial ecosystem. “The goal of the workshop is to deliver as much value as possible to the business owners, so when they return to their communities they’re able to implement what they’ve learned and build successful businesses, regardless of whether or not they win the competition,” says Davis. “This capacity development is how we build a culture of entrepreneurship in Southeast Alaska.”
A total of 38 entrepreneurs from 10 communities applied to Path to Prosperity in 2017. Competition administrators and sponsors conduct extensive in-person outreach in communities across the region. Over the first four cycles of P2P, 48 finalist businesses participated in the Boot Camp weekend, two-thirds of which came from rural communities. Contestants will develop a formal business plan by December 3, and a panel of independent judges will select two business as winners of the 2017 competition. Each will be awarded up to $25,000 in seed funding for consulting and technical services to develop the business. Competition winners will be announced at Innovation Summit, February 2018.
P2P officials encourage entrepreneurs interested in learning more or applying for the 2018 P2P competition to fill out the contact form on the competition website www.spruceroot.org.
About Spruce Root
Spruce Root is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that was founded in February 2012, with $500,000 of seed money from Sealaska through Haa Aaní Economic Development. Today the fund has grown to $3.5 million, which is possible thanks to grant, benefactor and partner funds.