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Business accelerator program aims to help small businesses flourish in Alaska

By Heather Hintze 6:22 PM July 26, 2016

After two years in business, Heather Kelly has seen the demand for more healthy options when it comes to backcountry camping food. That’s the concept behind her startup, Heather’s Choice: dehydrated meals made with Alaskan ingredients like smoked salmon.

“We’ve steadily grown. Today we’re sitting at $31,000 through our website which is our best month of sales yet,” Kelly told to a group of investors on Tuesday.

Heather’s Choice is one of five businesses in Launch : Alaska’s accelerator program. The organization, led by Lance Ahern and a long list of experienced mentors and board members, began as a way to help other startups get their ideas off the ground in Alaska.

“We continue to grow great people who have to leave the state to pursue their dreams and those opportunities. We want those opportunities to be here,” said Ahern.

The companies get mentors to help them grow their business models. Then they pitch to potential investors for feedback.

“There are so many things I don’t know, and that I don’t know that I don’t know,” Kelly laughed.

Aquilo is another business in the program. The Fairbanks-based drone services company keeps up to date on regulations and technology so their clients don’t have to.

Owner Carl France and his business partner are both University of Alaska Fairbanks graduations. He said it was important for them to start their business in their hometown.

“In the Lower 48 there’s a lot more talent but there’s more competition,” France said. “Here it’s more open. If you have the drive and you work hard the opportunity is there and you don’t get closed out from it.”

For Kelly being a part of Launch : Alaska and working with the mentors has allowed her to see her company’s potential.

“They’ve been super helpful in helping me get the business to the next level which ultimately is going to be growing to a global market,” Kelly said.

The other companies include Kwema, which makes smart jewelry to enhance personal safety, voice-control platform XPOHOC and Eiden Engineering, which creates devices and services for home safety.

Each will get to present to real investors at Demo Day on August 25 at the Beartooth Theater.

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