102 Alaska Business | September 2018 www.akbizmag.com
TIO N | S M A L L B U S I N E S S The grant, which awards up to $5,000 per ecipient, is available to shareholders living inside and outside of Alaska. “It’s seed money—not a lot—but enough to get an individual to the next step, to be able to move the company forward,” explains Millie Johnson, vice president of Chugach Alaska shareholder development and relations. “It’s a stepping stone for those opening a small business.” Applicants are scored on a broad spectrum of criteria, such as the business plan and bud-
get and must have a business license. Those
applying are also provided feedback on their
business ideas from award judges.
“They [the judges] provide meaningful
comments. Going through these criteria also
helps entrepreneurs in efforts where they
may seek out other funding,” says Johnson.
The seed money can’t be used to pay off
loans and it is taxable. So far more than one
hundred shareholders have been provided
Interest in the program has varied through
the years since it was launched in 2004. Last
year was a boom year, says Johnson, with
twelve individuals applying and ten awarded
funding. Overall the program has provided
$375,000 in the past fourteen years.
Many applicants are Alaska Native artists
seeking to sell handmade products, bed and
breakfast operators, or one of a full gamut
of maintenance-related businesses, from
plumbing to fire protection.
“While we don’t write business plans, we
can point them to resources that can help. The
bottom line is helping individuals get to the
next step with their prosperity,” says Johnson.
That’s exactly what it provided to Nicolet
who, along with her son Nick, opened Seagull’s
Roost Campground in Seward this summer.
While she was awarded the $5,000 grant
in 2015, the family business was met with a
slew of hurdles from the get-go that stalled
campground development for several years.
Hurdles that ranged from family health
challenges to weather-related obstacles.
The seed funding, says Nicolet, helped with
the purchase of needed tools, the creation of a
parking lot, installation of picnic tables, and
even hauling rocks from the campsites.
If she were to start from scratch Nicolet says
she would conduct much more research into
what it takes to develop a campsite and gain
a deeper understanding of the permitting
Despite facing challenges, she’s as enthusiastic and excited today as when she first conceived the small business idea.
“I would say just don’t give up. Even when
life throws you all sorts of challenges, don’t
give up, hang in there.”
Changing Occupational Lanes
That’s exactly what Denise May says when
asked about her and her husband’s experience
opening two lodge operations in the village of
Port Lions on Kodiak Island.
Overall the Chugach Alaska Corporation’s Small Business
Assistance program has provided $375,000 in the past fourteen
years… Applicants are scored on a broad spectrum of criteria,
such as the business plan and budget and must have a business
Bob May, who runs Ashama Point Lodge with his
wife Denise, shows off a catch during one of the
lodge’s fishing excursions.
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