Denali Hostel & Cabins rose through the competition at this year’s Alaska Tourism Industry Association’s Shark Tank contest and won $8,000 for some new construction.

“We plan to build an outdoor kitchen and covered outdoor seating space with mosquito netting,” owner Bethany Boyd said. “The outdoor kitchen is something I’ve been thinking about doing since last year, because when the hostel is full, the kitchen is crowded.”

“Now, with COVID it is a necessity,” she added. “The kitchen can only accommodate six people at a time with social distancing, and we would prefer people to not spend much time inside. So the outdoor kitchen will provide an elegant solution and will allow people to socialize safely.”

Denali Hostel & Cabins is a small seasonal family owned business just south of Denali National Park at Carlo Creek, operated by new owners Bethany and Terry Boyd

They were among 10 companies who gave brief presentations to the ATIA Shark Team in hopes of winning funding for their individual projects.

The Alaska Tourism Shark Tank is based on the reality TV show Shark Tank, in which business entrepreneurs try to convince major industry investors — the “sharks” — to help turn their dreams into successful business ventures. ATIA members apply to present tourism business products or ideas to pitch to the Alaska “sharks” during the annual October convention. Winners walk away with cash prizes to benefit their tourism business ideas.

This year, the presentations were virtual via Zoom at ATIA’s virtual convention. Sharks included Scott Habberstad, Alaska Airlines; Dale Wade, Alaska Railroad Corp.; Jay Blury, GCI; Tom Stark, Wells Fargo and Ral West, representing the Chuck West family.

In her presentation, Boyd described how important the kitchen is to the hostel. It’s where guests make friends with other guests from all over the world.

The hostel “just didn’t feel like itself,” she said,” “without people gathering in the kitchen to talk about their experiences and make plans for the next day. This will help get the social aspect back in a COVID-safe way.”

The outdoor kitchen they plan to create is simple and would tie into the existing deck and plumbing. Covered seating spaces would provide additional space that is open-air yet protected from the weather.

“They say that home is where the heart is and the kitchen is the heart of the home,” Boyd told the sharks. “We need your help to get the hostel’s heart beating again by creating safe, outdoor spaces for guests to socialize.”

Boyd said receiving the award was an honor and a relief, “especially with COVID and the financial hardship brought on by the virus.”

“But it also shows that the sponsors care about Denali and the visitors that our hostel brings to the state,” she added. “We bring visitors from all over the world of all ages.”

The Boyds also operate Denali Photo Guides, which was awarded $5,000 by the ATIA Shark Tank in 2018. At that time, the business was known as Terry Boyd Photography, and the award allowed them to rebrand and market the new name.

Other 2020 Shark Tank winners included Alaska Friends, Anchorage, $7,000 to develop a website, expand social media marketing and build out trip offerings; and Juneau Food Tours, Juneau, $7,000 for a Taste Alaska! food subscription program expansion. ATIA members also selected Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center as the fan favorite. It received $3,000 for an animal food kitchen project, courtesy of sponsor Alaska Railroad.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.