3 Budding Entrepreneurs Get a Jump Start

Washington Coast Works Sustainable Small Business Competition Winners Announced

Written & Photographed by Eric Delvin, Emerald Edge Project Manager

Over the last year I have had the distinct pleasure to help launch a sustainable small business competition on the Washington coast, Washington Coast Works.  Last week the perseverance and vision of the 11 finalists in the competition paid off, for three of the budding small business owners, when the winners were announced at the Grays Harbor Business Leaders Banquet.

Emily Foster, a Quileute tribal member from LaPush, in Clallam County, won the first-place prize of $10,000 for equipment and supplies to launch Lonzo’s Seafood Company, offering smoked Quileute-caught fresh salmon.

After the awards, Emily told me about how important the award was for her and the Quileute community.  She talked about how much fishing was an integral part of her family and tribal heritage.  She noted how the prize money would provide her with an opportunity to expand the Quileute fish market in a sustainable way and keep the profits within her local community.

She said she was excited about this business because she will be promoting seafood that comes from Quileute. Growing up as the daughter of a commercial fisherman who has made a living fishing and crabbing for over 30 years, this business will allow her to work with him directly and benefit from his years of expertise.

Runners up were Liz Ellis, from Aberdeen in Grays Harbor County, and Jean Ramos, a Quinault tribal elder from Queets, in Jefferson County, who each received $5,000 to launch their businesses.

Ellis is starting the East Aberdeen Community Farm, where neighbors in the Wishkah River lowlands can grow, market and buy fresh local produce.

Ramos is creating SovereigNDNTea, a business selling locally and sustainably foraged Labrador tea.

The three were chosen from 11 semifinalists, who have all participated in workshops on entrepreneurship, business, and sustainability. Finalists also had access to one-on-one technical assistance from experienced business advisors to develop and refine their business concepts.

What is exciting to me about this project overall is that it represents a new way that The Nature Conservancy is approaching our work.  Just as we emphasized to the contestants in the competition that they need to think about triple bottom line businesses that value economics, ecology, and people, TNC is approaching our work more broadly in the same way.  While we work on forest and marine conservation projects we are also thinking about community and economic vitality as well. Small-scale, sustainable businesses have the potential to infuse new life into coastal communities, providing jobs and keeping local money local, and that’s the premise for Washington Coast Works.

Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-WA, who presented the awards said, “The Nature Conservancy and the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship are continuing to lead the effort to give our region’s small businesses an open field to launch their ideas and make a positive impact. This competition illustrated the great work happening on the Olympic Peninsula to create sustainable jobs and drive innovation.”

This project would not have been possible without our strong partners at Pinchot University, Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship and the Taala Fund.  Also, significantly, our prize funding was provided by First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Port Angeles and the Quinault Indian Nation.

I am super excited to kick off round two of Coast Works very soon, which we will launch in early 2016. Watch the Washington Coast Works website, www.wacoastworks.org, for updates.