Traditional and Innovative Businesses Get Boost on the Washington Coast

By Garrett Dalan, Washington Coast Conservation Coordinator

Fifteen emerging entrepreneurs from coastal communities along the Olympic Peninsula participated in a four-day Entrepreneurship Intensive in June at the University of Washington Olympic Natural Resource Center in Forks. The participants are finalists in the 2017 Washington Coast Works Small Business Competition vying for up to $10,000 in startup financing.

The diversity of candidates and participants was inspiring. We have finalists from every part of the Washington Coast, from Westport to Sequim. They range from those still dreaming up their business to those who have well-established businesses. There are traditional business ideas and things that would be considered new or trendy. Given all this variety, I was so impressed by the cohesion that came out of this intensive workshop. The candidates are not only willing, but hoping to work with each other and support each other.

Candidates and participants at the Washington Coast Works Entrepreneurship Intensive in June. Photo by Garrett Dalan/TNC

The intensive workshop focused on entrepreneurship, the fundamentals of a triple-bottom-line business model and the role that small businesses can play in building resilient and conservation-oriented local economies.

“Now the real work begins,” says Mike Skinner, director of the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship and the Washington Coast Works administrator. “Participants have been immersed in business fundamentals and strategies needed to develop a triple-bottom-line business model,” adds Skinner. “They now move forward with ongoing training and one-on-one technical assistance from experienced business advisors to apply what they have learned.”

The 2017 Coast Works Title Sponsor is KeyBank. Additional support is provided by the Jamestown-S’Klallam Tribe, Bank of the Pacific, Port of Port Angeles and Washington State Department of Commerce.

Sea stacks off the beaches near La Push, Wash. Photo © Lauren Owens

I was thrilled by the range of proposals.

One proposal, by Josh Goakey, was for a butcher shop in the Forks area. On its face this doesn't seem like an exciting fit for a triple bottom-line (the economy, environment and people)business program. But once you get to meet Josh and hear about the need and potential for this business on the West End, it starts fitting very nicely. There's a direct conservation or environmental impact in having the service close to Forks as opposed to Port Angeles or Aberdeen, saving people from driving. There’s the social impact of being able to process food for the local food banks. That doesn’t happen currently because of the lack of a certified facility.

Shaelee Evans, from Sequim, has started Goodness Tea Company, and she is really committed to helping other businesses in the community. She’s already part of a co-op and sent out emails to that co-op team during the workshop about what an opportunity this was and how excited she was about it.

Cheri Tinker already houses more than a dozen formerly homeless veterans in Forks with her business, Sarge’s Place. They already provide mental health services and social support. And now they’re looking to create a garden where there vets can work and then sell the produce at a farm stand. Her vision is to create deeply needed jobs using a natural resource that is annually renewable.

Kriska Obermiller, from Sequim, is starting a Native storytelling business. “I’m so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and attended this training,” she says. “I met some amazing people. We are the dream warriors, and this is where it starts.”

Workshopping in June. Photo by Garrett Dalan/TNC

Jess Foss, from Amanda Park, participated last year and re-applied with a new business venture that resources byproducts of his biodiesel-powered stump-grinding business. “Coast Works has changed my life,” says Foss. “I didn’t think it was possible to start my own business. Now, I’m up and running, and sales are growing fast.”

The momentum moving forward was real and tangible. The potential for a deep, wide-reaching drive to look at business from a sustainable, community-first perspective is there.

Finalists will present their written case statement and a five-minute “fast pitch” to a panel of independent judges in late fall. Past and present Coast Works entrepreneurs, sponsors, funders, partners and folks from the Coast Works communities will be invited to celebrate the finalists and help launch a new Coast Works Alliance.

To learn about sponsorship and mentoring opportunities or how to contribute to the prize money through our crowd-funding campaign, visit www.wacoastworks.org, or contact Mike Skinner at (206) 235-6029.