The deadline to enter the Path to Prosperity small business development competition is fast approaching. Ashley Snookes, with Spruce Root, the non-profit that sponsors the competition, discussed the program.

Spruce Root, with offices in Juneau and Sitka, serves all of Southeast Alaska. The non-profit offers free business coaching, small business loans and runs the Path to Prosperity sustainable business competition.

Snookes is Spruce Root’s program manager.  She says any entrepreneur or existing small business owner in Southeast, looking to start or grow a business, is invited to apply for the Path to Prosperity program. A panel of judges reviews applications and selects 12 finalists.

“Those 12 finalists will receive an all-expense-paid trip to Juneau where they come for our boot camp. It’s three intense days with mentors and experts working on your business. And then from there, those 12 finalists go on to put together full business plans which they submit for the chance to win one of two $25,000 awards to grow and build their business.”

Snookes says even if a finalist doesn’t win, the boot camp is invaluable.

“The boot camp is an amazing experience. We bring in regional, state and national experts to work with these small business owners. The days are intense, but you get to work on everything from marketing to financial projections to really analyzing the strategy of your business. It’s a really great experience.”

Snookes says it’s easy to apply, and applicants don’t need to have a business plan or fully-developed idea. Six questions are asked.

“The first three questions are really just asking you about your idea. Why is there a problem? How are you uniquely solving it?”

She says the next three questions ask about sustainability principles.  Snookes says Spruce Root wants applicants to consider the triple bottom line – profits, people and place. As an example she spoke about one of the 2018 winners, Mud Bay Lumber Company.

“For them, sustainability looks like trying to have zero waste from every log that they cut down. That has an environmental element to it, but there’s also a people element to that. From the extra that they have from the logs, they actually have a small pile of lumber that’s available for community members to come pick up free logs. So they’re thinking about not just their profit, but the people and the place as well.”

Snookes says she can review applications before submission and provide feedback on what the judges are looking for. She says the goal of the competition is to encourage small business development in Southeast.

The Path to Prosperity competition is in its seventh year and so far has awarded $460,000 to Southeast Alaska small businesses. The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. on May 31st.

Spruce Root website:

Path to Prosperity details:

Ashley Snookes’ email: