Every autumn, Jaiden Dokken and MacKenzie Grinell comb the Olympic Peninsula for apples, connecting with owners of abandoned orchards who are happy to see their fruit fall into good hands rather than go to waste. Then, in one intensive week, says Jaiden, the pair press those apples into 600 gallons of cider for friends and family. She calls it a “hobby.”
But Jaiden, 24, and MacKenzie, 25, have bigger ideas for this fruitful pastime: to produce their locally sourced, sustainably crafted cider commercially. Now, thanks to the 2019 Coast Works Entrepreneur Event, they are making that dream real. Their budding business, Sequim-based Two Hooligans Cider, won the top prize of $10,000.
This year marks Coast Works Entrepreneur Event’s fourth year. “Coast Works is a great way for The Nature Conservancy to invest in communities for lasting conservation,” says Garrett Dalan, Washington Coast Community Relations Lead for the Conservancy, which created Coast Works. “It looks to support and inspire entrepreneurs and triple bottom line businesses along the Washington Coast.” By “triple bottom line,” Garrett refers to three complementary goals of resource-based, sustainable businesses: Profit, People, and Place.
The Entrepreneur Event is a bit like a mini-version of the television show “Shark Tank.” Applicants submit business ideas in September. Then in November, finalists attend an intensive four-day business plan workshop in Forks, run by Enterprise for Equity and Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship. In March judges hear pitches, then award grants ranging from $2500 to $10,000. They look for solid business ideas that are sustainable and unique—not to mention viable—and which benefit the local economy and environment.
Lorrie Mittmann, owner of Peninsula Adventure Sports in Port Angeles, garnered this year’s $5,000 second place grant. Lorrie currently organizes four adventure sports races, like the 80-mile Frosty Moss Relay. Based on visitor bureau estimates, athletes attending those races in 2018 spent $78,000. The races boost the local economy other ways: goods purchased, locals hired for day-of-race support.
Lorrie also points to other, less tangible place-related benefits. “I really think being out there on our public lands, whether in one of my races, or at another time, fosters a passion…it inspires in people a desire to protect and steward our natural resource lands.”
For now, Lorrie works at North Olympic Land Trust, and runs Peninsula Adventure Sports on the side. “My dream is to expand my business to full time, and do everything I can to help my community and local economy,” she says. She envisions more races, in a wider variety of Peninsula locations and seasons. She’ll use the prize money to upgrade timing equipment and broaden marketing.
For the cider-making hooligans, Coast Works Entrepreneur Event was inspiring, enlightening, and a great boost to their business chops. “The workshop was huge,” Jaiden says. “It was good to actually wipe the apple juice off our hands and come inside to work on the computer.” They also discovered that conservation and sustainability are templates for other Washington coast small businesses, too. “The Coast Works contest was a really cool way to put a name to what we were doing,” says Jaiden.
Two Hooligans will use the money for a high volume cider mill (they’ve been hand pressing those 600 gallons on borrowed equipment), used kegs, and a bottle washing machine. In addition to hard cider, they plan to produce a sparkling, non-alcoholic cider, unique on the Peninsula. Their goal is 1200 gallons of Two Hooligans cider on tap by December 2019.
Jaiden and MacKenzie look forward to toasting Coast Works with their first commercial cider. “Without the Coast Works grant, we couldn’t have done this,” she says. “We’d still be a couple years out.”
The Nature Conservancy’s Partners in Washington Coast Works include: Quinault Indian Nation, Key Bank Foundation, Washington Department of Commerce, Bank of the Pacific Sound Community Bank, Umpqua Bank, Enterprise for Equity and Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship.
Banner photo by Ron Clausen, used via Creative Commons by 2.0