Bethel small businesses receive $26,000 in rural Alaskan version of ‘Shark Tank’

2018 winners: Louise Russell, Tracy Wilbanks, Lucas Salzbrun, Krystle Penaflor, Conor Burke, and program director Reyne Athanas. Not in photo are Christine Stone and Azara Mohammadi. Photo courtesy of Reyne Athanas

Eight finalists receive grants to spur economic development in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region.
The UAF Kuskokwim Campus Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center and Best in the West partners are pleased to announce the winners of the tenth annual small business competition for 2018. The Best in the West small business competition aims to help new small-business owners in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region gain knowledge about starting and operating small businesses and compete for funds to develop their small business idea. Applicants must attend small business development workshops through the cultural center and develop business plans, market analysis and a budget. Awards range from $3,000 to $5,000.
The Best in the West small business competition started in 2009. Since the program’s inception, more than $250,000 has been awarded to small businesses in western Alaska. Of the 64 winners in the last ten years only 14 are not in business currently. The 2019 application start date is December 1, 2018.
“Participating in this program takes dedication and it has successfully created thriving businesses in the YK Delta,” said Reyne Athanas, program director from the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center and UAF, Kuskokwim Campus. “Eighty percent of the businesses we’ve funded are still in business today.”
This year’s winners are:
Lucus Salzbrun – Rural Service Solutions, $4,000
Tracy Wilbanks – The Windy Willow Salon, $4,000
Azara Mohammadi – Healthy History Media, $3,000
Krystle Penaflor – Fireweed Craft Company, $4,000
Conor Burke – Conor Burke Productions, $3,000
Christine Stone – Traditional Craft Workshops, $3,000
Louise Russell – Jones Family Apiary, $5,000
About Best in the West
Bethel Community Services Foundation is the Best in the West project fiscal sponsor and provides the back-end services for the project (receipts for donors, fund administration, etc.). Reyne Athanas at YPCC/UAF Kuskokwim Campus is the project director. Funding partners include UAF Kuskokwim Campus, Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center, Donlin Gold, Coastal Village Regional Fund, Bethel Community Services Foundation, Bethel Native Council, Calista, First National Bank, GCI, Kuskoskwim Art Guild, ConocoPhillips, BP Alaska, Wells Fargo, and Bethel Chamber of Commerce.

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