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Small businesses to compete at annual Spark Soldotna event

The Pony Keg catering a recent event
Anna Mercier
The Pony Keg catering a recent event

Inspired by the reality television series “Shark Tank,” the annual Spark Soldotna event provides an opportunity for local up-and-coming businesses to present their ideas to a panel of judges. Put on by the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, established small businesses and people with concept ideas are eligible to submit an application to compete for the $4000 business scholarship.

Started in 2019, the event’s panel of judges consists of influential locals. This year’s panel includes Borough Mayor Peter Micciche, Borough Assembly Vice President Tyson Cox, Central Peninsula Hospital Board Vice President Steve Horn and 2021 Spark Soldotna winner Delena Green.

“The whole goal is to stimulate our local economy,” said Maddy Olsen, Soldotna Chamber of Commerce executive director. “Four thousand dollars can do so much for so many people and their businesses.”

Funds for Spark Soldotna’s business scholarship come from the Soldotna Chamber’s Annual Pie Auction. The $4000 can be used for anything related to the business, including merchandise, training or other programs.

This year’s participants include the AK Big Sipper restaurant in Soldotna, Ms. Elsie’s curated boutique on Whistle Hill, Soldotna Sit & Stay luxury dog boarding and Stepping Stones Educational Coaching in Soldotna.

Last year’s Spark Soldotna winner was The Pony Keg, a mobile beverage catering service. The company, which operates out of a converted horse trailer, supplies beer, wine, cocktails and cleanup supplies to weddings, barbeques and other events. It’s been in business for about three years.

“We bring the bar, they bring the party,” said Samantha Pyfer, co-owner of The Pony Keg.

“The grant was awesome,” said owner Anna Mercier. “We used that for advertising, and put that back into the business. But also just the encouragement that it provided, knowing that other people thought that our idea was worth investing in was beneficial.”

Mercier says she heard about Spark Soldotna through a Facebook advertisement. She applied on behalf of her business, not expecting to hear anything back. When she did, the duo created a fun presentation, which included a skit of a probable wedding scenario in need of drinks.

“For us, it was helpful because we had to really think about how we were selling our product and market that in a small, ten minute window to people,” Mercier said. “I think anyone that’s presenting at Spark has to get their marketing presentation in their head and ready to go, and that’s helpful for any business, I’d say.”

Since winning last year’s scholarship, The Pony Keg has seen a drastic increase in business. The owners believe their business stood out to last year’s sharks because of a local need for what they offer.

Mercier’s advice for giving a marketing pitch? Watch “Shark Tank,” and have fun with your presentation.

“It’s always good to invest in small businesses,” Mercier said. “We’re the people spending money in our community, so everything that we buy for our business or work we have done for the trailer just comes directly from the community itself.”

“It puts this money directly into a small business owner’s pocket for the business, of course,” Olsen added. “With that, that money is staying local. It’s really a full circle, keeping this money flowing in our local economy rather than branching out.”

You can attend the Spark Soldotna event live this Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Lone Moose Lodge in Soldotna. The event will be catered by The Goods.. You can purchase tickets at

Hunter Morrison is a news reporter at KDLL
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