Startup Week gives boost to new businesses

Nov 19, 2019

If you’ve got a business idea you’ve been kicking around, this is the week to see if it could fly. Kenai/Soldotna Startup Week continues through Friday, with a variety of informational events aiming to help tackle the many hurdles facing entrepreneurs. 

This is the second year for the statewide event being held on the central Kenai Peninsula and the offerings have nearly doubled. Devon Gonzalez is helping organize the local startup week. She knows from experience how daunting it can be to start a new business, as she and her husband, Brian, opened Kenai Kombucha in April.

“I think all the events are going to be really helpful. I wish I would have jumped on board last year to come check out some of these events,” Gonzalez said. “But I think they’re all going to be helpful in some way, to network with people, get your business idea rolling, practice your pitch to the community and what your ideas are and what you might think the Kenai-Soldotna community needs.” 

The week kicked off Sunday with an idea launch at Addie Camp in Soldotna, with established business owners offering feedback and advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. Today’s events are a workshop on communicating effectively, held by the Soldotna Speakers at noon at Peninsula Community Health Services in Soldotna. Tonight, the city of Kenai is hosting “Policy with a Pint” at 6 p.m. at Main Street Tap and Grill, to talk about the ins and outs of doing business in the city. 

Wednesday’s Kenai-Soldotna Chamber lunch is a panel of business owners, and there’s a “Cannabis for Dummies” presentation to get started in that budding industry at 5 p.m. Wednesday next to East Rip in Kenai.

On Thursday, KeyBank in Kenai and Kenai Kombucha are sponsoring a workshop on debt financing. And Kenai Joe’s Taphouse has Networking on Tap at 5 p.m., which is a speed-dating format for entrepreneurs. 

Friday begins with a chance to polish your new business pitch at 8:30 a.m. at Dry Bones Coffee in Kenai, with help from the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District. At 10 a.m., KeyBank in Kenai hosts a session on branding your business. And the week culminates in Spark Soldotna at 5 p.m. Friday at The Catch Restaurant in Soldotna. It’s a “Shark Tank”-type competition, with four entrepreneurs giving their best business pitch for the chance to win investment money.

Since Kenai Kombucha is less than a year old, Gonzales qualified to apply for Spark Soldotna and she made it to the final round.

“There was nine of us that submitted our ideas — what are we going to do, why is this going to be effective for the community, what are our plans to do with the money if we were to win it,” Gonzales said. 

Tickets for Spark Soldotna are $20, available through the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce and at the door. All the rest of the startup week events are free. The goal, after all, isn’t to make money off new business owners, but to help them make money in the community.

“I think there is definitely a need for more small businesses, new ideas around town for all of the generations. But there’s definitely a need for more small businesses. A lot of people nowadays are looking to support those mom-and-pop shops,” Gonzales said.

For more information on Keani/Soldotna Startup Week, find their page on Facebook.