Path to Prosperity Business Development Competition 2021 Winners Announced

Sealaska invests in Southeast Alaska businesses through a yearly commitment to Spruce Root, Inc. Spruce Root supports businesses through loan capital and support services to promote economic, social, cultural and environmental resiliency. 

Sealaska economic development partner Spruce Root just announced the winners of its annual Path to Prosperity business competition, with two Southeast businesses winning $25,000 each. In the competition, 12 finalists receive intensive business coaching from Spruce Root experts. The pool is eventually winnowed to two winners. This yearwinners include Naomi Michalsen of Ketchikan-based Kaasei Training and Consulting, and Starr and Jimmi Jensen of Coastal Heating and Repair in Yakutat.  

Kaasei Training and Consulting works to revitalize traditional knowledge of Indigenous plants and foods by holding workshops and trainings that encourage participants to deepen their connections to self, community and the environment. Kaasei is run by Naomi Michalsen, a Tlingit chef and grandmother who is based in Ketchikan. Kaasei’s harvesting, preserving and cooking workshops help participants further their understanding of their beautiful surroundings, increase appreciation for the deep cultural history of the Indigenous people of Alaska, and gain knowledge of harvesting ethically and respectfully. 

Coastal Heating and Repair is a start-up business owned by Jimmi and Starr Jensen that will provide the community of Yakutat with heating and plumbing services, giving residents the opportunity to have cleaner, safer and more energy efficient homes. Jimmi, who is Iñupiaq, has more than 10 years of experience as a heating technician and has provided this service to residents of Yakutat for several years as a side job. Starr, who is Tlingit and Koyukon Athabascan, will support the finance and scheduling side of the business. Jimmi and Starr are thrilled to be able to do this work full time as a means to support their family and hometown of Yakutat. 

The cycle for the 2021 Path to Prosperity competition begins soon. A new crop of applicants will be selected to participate and receive the business coaching and networking benefits of their involvement – not to mention a shot at the prize money. Applications will open April 1 and close on May 31. The Path to Prosperity Boot Camp will be held in September. Visit to learn more. 

Sealaska invests in small business owners through a yearly financial commitment to Spruce Root, Inc., a nonprofit community development financial institution (CDFI) founded in 2012 with $500,000 of seed money from Sealaska. Its mission is to assist Southeast Alaska people and businesses to reach their full potential through loan capital and support services to promote economic, social, cultural and environmental resiliency. Sealaska is proud to see the investment put to work during a year of uncertainty.  

More Workforce Development and Business Training Opportunities 

Alaskan Youth Stewards Program  

Recruitment begins in March/April for participants in the Alaskan Youth Stewards program for the 2021 season(The program is also known as Youth Conservation Corps/YCC or Training Rural Alaskan Youth Leaders and Students/TRAYLS, depending on the community.) Field crews are anticipated in Kake, Hoonah, Angoon and Prince of Wales Island. Watch for additional details.  

Spruce Root Business Basics Workshop 

Business Basics is an interactive, online workshop designed for Southeast Alaskans who are looking to launch a business. Watch for the next workshop this spring. Visit to learn more 

Master Class for the New Economy 

Spruce Root’s Master Class for the New Economy will support Southeast Alaska entrepreneurs in recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, building resilience and accessing resources for success in the upcoming year. Visit to learn more