Small Business Month Cyber Forums: Michelle Sparck (KTVA.com Exclusive)
KTVA Channel 11 News ...and speaking of rural development, how have you seen your business affect your home community since inception?
Michelle Sparck Well, it's pretty demanding that jobs are created on a $20,000 win. I know they don't literally expect jobs to happen outside principle sweat equity, but we really feel that economic botany is a growth industry (I guess that's like a pun) and that it can change the face of economy in Western Alaska.
KTVA Channel 11 News Outside of your website, arxotica.com, where you have an international marketplace, how else are you distributing your products?
Michelle Sparck Our efforts to date have been modest village-wise, we have rented boats, paid for gas, outfitted people's regular subsistence activities while hitching our operation with them. But we have donated a lot of product in the last few years for charitable causes, statewide.
KTVA Channel 11 News What type of growth have you seen over the past several years?
Michelle Sparck We don't own any brick and mortar, so we don't have a shop. We are working with Solstice Alaska to relaunch our site and look forward to that functionality. Our trade shows, in conjunction with the Indian Agricultural Council, brings us a lot of traffic, sales and follow-ups/leads. That has helped immensely with our maneuverability and networking. We've done AFN, the RES, NIGA and a lot of other high profile Alaska Native / American Indian venues as they mature in their infrastructure in entertainment and destination sites.
Bob Petersen What has been the most difficult obstacle you've faced to date with the launch of your company - and how do you view your business experience as a blueprint for future rural entrepreneurs?
Michelle Sparck We are slowly getting more business from tribally owned entities across the country, but the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa in Cabazon, CA, near Palm Springs, has become our biggest client.
Michelle Sparck That is not to say we should be considered a tribal product or for that demographic, but it is the most natural entry into that kind of marketplace as they work to support tribally owned or produced products, and let's face it, they've got some top shelf facilities these days.
Kristine Adams Hello Michelle, congratulations on your product line. Can you tell me of the value of the assistance provided by The Alaska Marketplace? Could you have gotten to point you are without them?
Michelle Sparck GCI has been our biggest client in-State too, they've believed in us before we came out with Quyung-lii, they loved our soaps and other merchandise. We were their corporate gifting selection for a year or so.
Michelle Sparck A real coup was to get the attention of Alaska Airlines management, where the brass really felt they should showcase a homegrown idea. We made the May 2012 magazine.
Michelle Sparck Bob Petersen, there's quiet a list of obstacles. Being off the road system for one. But funnily enough, even with our challenging supply chain, the harvesting and then the final manufacturing, was the easiest part of the whole six-year process. It is the little stuff in the middle that can jam you up. There are obvious set-backs in working with outside companies, contract manufacturers and such, we lost almost a ton of water and it set us back six weeks to recoup that effort. If we could make some things easier for rural folks that want to start a business, we'd be happy to give advice. Advice, a valuable thing, is free.