The Techstars Alaska Startup Week op-ed series features entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial ecosystem builders sharing their thoughts and ideas on a variety of topics related to startups and innovation. Techstars Alaska Startup Week is a week-long series of events hosted by entrepreneurs and business leaders from across the state. In 2020, all events are virtual, and you can find them here: Startup Week Schedule. All are welcome, please join us!
People, profit, and planet: these three words speak to a business purpose greater than the traditional financial profitability of a business.
The Triple Bottom Line concept isn’t new but what’s new is how this trio of words are the underpinning features of a model to deliver business education, and invest in the emerging activities of new businesses in Bristol Bay.
Path to Prosperity, or P2P, a business plan competition model that recently expanded from southeast Alaska to Bristol Bay – its design a framework of supportive resources from a community of statewide practitioners, topical experts, and a peer network of rural business owners was founded by Southeast Alaska’s Spruce Root Inc. and brought to Bristol Bay through a supporting partnership with The Nature Conservancy, or TNC, P2P aims to nurture emerging and existing businesses in Bristol Bay.
Bristol Bay Development Fund, or BBDF, recently announced the 11 finalists selected from a pool of 20 applicants for the second cycle of the P2P competition. The cohort is comprised of a diverse group of local entrepreneurs from six Bristol Bay communities, and comprised of business types such as mobile food services, multi-location retail store, micro fish processing, mobile food services, aviation instruction, health and fitness, and coffee outlet to share a few.
Despite the many challenges businesses are facing during this unprecedented health crisis, telecommunications included in the region, the finalists persisted in completing a multi-day, virtual boot camp where finalists experienced step-by-step instructions to developing a financial model based on their unique product sales and expenses, navigated the multi-facets of marketing, human resources, and developing public speaking confidence by creating one-minute pitch videos that succinctly share their business story or purpose.
After the boot camp, participants retreat to writing a business plan to compete for one of three financial awards to be used to further their business plan objectives such as implementing accounting systems and best practices, acquisition of equipment, or seeking professional services to implement marketing strategies like website or brand design. In the last P2P cycle, BBDF awarded a total of $50,000 to three finalists located in Dillingham and Naknek and we look forward to seeing the business plans developed by this year’s finalists.
While P2P is a traditional business incubator, its sponsors do not make up a traditional partnership. However, bolstering economic vitality and providing support to small businesses in rural Alaska is something BBDF, TNC and Spruce Root agree on and have united to support when implementing the expansion to Bristol Bay.
Why does this matter? Business success is a means of creating local jobs and boosting the burgeoning economy in Bristol Bay. At BBDF, we support a number of projects to infuse knowledge, create opportunities, and support entrepreneurs in our communities, including the P2P competition.
BBDF, a subsidiary of Bristol Bay Native Corp., or BBNC, was created in 2014 to invest in businesses that directly benefit our shareholders. Our goal is not only to infuse $5 million into the Bristol Bay economy over an 11-year period, but to prepare local entrepreneurs and businesses for long-term success with a mindset that can be described in three words: community, connection, and capital.
Small businesses are the heartbeat of our state and nation. However, the idea of starting a small company can be intimidating. Even as a new venture starts to grow, there is often a barrage of pitfalls and roadblocks.
Encouraging business owners to accept failure as a fast learning exercise to get to the next best opportunity is a priority in nurturing businesses. Our efforts are to provide a boost to organizations that need an enthusiastic but honest cheerleader to bring their big ideas to fruition.
BBDF’s purpose is larger than just business; we’re motivated by our cultural values that have been nurtured in Bristol Bay for millennia. Our shareholders and our corporation are defined and connected by our Alutiiq, Dena’ina, and Yup’ik cultures and our shared drive to protect our Native way of life. This drive motivates us to support shareholder-owned businesses, allowing them to expand and provide new employment opportunities for other shareholders.
Our commitment to community is also a fundamental part of BBDF’s mission. In the Bristol Bay region, our culture is built upon the benefits of working together to provide for our local communities. Supporting each other, whether it’s in sharing salmon with elders or coaching a local start-up towards its business readiness goals.
Business success isn’t guaranteed just with cash or improving the bottom line take a “nurture capital” approach that combines access to the financial capital with access to non-financial capital such as investing in knowledge growth, offering tools that demystify the business planning process, and facilitating meaningful connections within a vast ecosystem of support in Alaska. The non-financial capital continues to be a crucial resource for our businesses particularly in this phase of economic recovery.
Bristol Bay Development Fund acknowledges the hard work of small businesses supporting their communities. Alaska Start Up week reminds all of us that the diversity of our economy is dependent on the ideas of people across our state. We say quyana (thank you) to Path to Prosperity applicants who step outside their comfort zone to invest their time, talent and inclusion of sustainability practices. There’s no shortage of entrepreneurial spirit in the Bristol Bay region. Partnering for a purpose greater than bottom line.
Cindy Mittlestadt is the manager of the Bristol Bay Development Fund, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bristol Bay Native Corp. The Fund is a catalyst for in-region business start-up, survival, success, and growth through the deployment of financial and non financial capital.