FAIRBANKS — Cue the ominous soundtrack. The Alaska version of “Shark Tank” was held for the third year at the Alaska Travel Industry Association annual conference this week.
The mood was lighthearted, but the stakes were high. Alaska business owners who participated knew they were competing for serious money. All they had to do was convince a panel of three judges, or “sharks.” And they only had three minutes to persuade them.
The sharks included Scott Habberstad with Alaska Airlines, Dale Wade with Alaska Railroad and Paul Lende with GCI. Each of the sharks had 30 seconds to ask a question and business owners had 30 seconds to respond. Total time for each contestant: six minutes to make it or break it.
As a large crowd looked on, seven business owners gave it their best shot. Only three were chosen, including two tourism businesses from Interior Alaska and one from Seward. Each business was awarded $5,000.
The winners were:
Terry Boyd Photography Tours/Denali Park
Bethany Boyd told the panel of sharks that the instructional photography business based in Denali has steadily grown for the past eight years.
“We teach them how to get the most out of their cameras,” she said. The business now works with a staff of three people, but clients always are perplexed if their guide is not Terry Boyd himself.
So it has become clear that the business needs to change its brand, particularly for independent travelers. She asked for Shark Tank funds to rename the business Denali Photo Guides and to pay for a marketing consultant, a designer to help create a new logo and marketing materials and to create a video series for the business web page.
“We lack recognition and reach,” she said. “A serious marketing plan will help us create more jobs and reach Alaska visitors.”
Paws For Adventure
Leslie Goodwin-Williams began a mushing school north of Fairbanks 20 years ago. She proposed building a large group venue site that would enable her to handle more visitors to introduce them to dog mushing.
“Our focus has always been on authenticity,” she said. “Success starts with a vision and includes a perfect location.”
The business specializes in tours that can cater to one to 80 people.
This past season, the business accommodated close to 3,000 guests. She thinks that number could double if she had a bigger facility. The new facility would also serve as a staging area for summer tours and kennel talks.
Seward Adventure Center
Owner Sarah Stokey proposed building a new project called Bear Glacier Yurts, to offer ‘glamping’ (glamour camping) in a remote area outside Seward only accessible by helicopter.
“This is a stunning area right outside Seward,” she said. “Access is extremely limited. The only real reliable way to get there is via helicopter.”
Shark Tank funds, she said, would allow the business to build three yurts, as well as a permanent year-round shed to store the yurts.
“We’re hoping to offer a unique experience, short guided hikes,” she said, “so more people can just experience how wonderful this place is. These funds would help accelerate our build schedule for this endeavor.”
The business intends to offer package tours, including helicopter transport, for the special getaway.
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at email@example.com. Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.