Best in the West 2017 Winners

Zhi Hastie is a Best in the West award winner this year with her clay flower arrangements.

by Reyne Athanas

The UAF Kuskokwim Campus Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center and Best in the West partners are pleased to announce the winners of the ninth annual small business competition for 2017.

This annual competition is a unique opportunity to build small businesses in the YK region and promote jobs and economic stability. This is a true grassroots effort to support local entrepreneurs.

This year’s Winners are:

Marlena Dhaemers, Sandpiper Stitching, $2,500

Leslie Boelens, Aniak Community Market, $2,500

Zhi Hastie, Made With Love, $5,400

Caroline Hessler, Caroline’s Creations, $250

Josh Howell, Howell Mobile Truck and Equipment Repair, $6,400

Laura Karr, Bethel Bookkeeping, $1,400

Michelle DeWitt, Eric Whitney, Christina Desnoyers; Salmon Cycles, $3,400

Kate McWilliams, Artic Belle Boutique, $2,425

Bill Howell, Bill’s Meats, $4,400

Hannah Howell, Sew Cool, $250

Gail Alstrom, Eagles Nest Lodge, $2,900

David Beans, Matty’s Truck Rental, $3,400

The awardees have put in months of hard work preparing their business plans. A grand total of $35,225 was awarded this year, with total awards over nine years $222,970.

Since 2009 there have been 57 small businesses started with the assistance of Best in the West. The YPCC will be offering workshops over the summer and fall for all entrepreneurs and small business.

The funding partnership that supports the competition include KUC/YPCC, Bethel Community Services Foundation, First National Bank, Donlin Creek LLC, Calista, GCI, Bethel Native Corporation, Kuskokwim Art Guild, Bethel Chamber of Commerce, Coastal Village Region Fund, Wells Fargo, and Conoco Phillips. The partners have joined in promoting local, YK delta entrepreneurs with direct cash awards.

All of the partners are committed to building small businesses in the YK region, promote jobs and economic stability. This year the judging committee voted to start a Best in the West Foundation, planning for the future growth of businesses in the YK delta. The partners welcome inclusion of regional and statewide stakeholders and businesses to join the consortium.

The 2018 Best in the West competition will open for applications in December 1, 2017. We encourage anyone with a business idea to come talk to Grady Deaton or Reyne Athanas at the YPCC during regular business hours.