Solar company capitalizes on Alaska’s midnight sun
Small Business Week means celebrating Alaska’s 75,000 companies that make up the local economy.
Jon Bittner, the executive director for the Small Business Development Center, said 99 percent of companies in Alaska count as small businesses, with fewer than 500 employees or make less than $20 million a year.
“We have this interesting blend of innovative people who are passionate and creative and we also have a really supportive community,” Bittner said.
Despite a slow economy and uncertainty with the state budget, Bittner said there are companies that are thriving.
Arctic Solar Ventures is a company Stephen Trimble and his wife started three years ago when they saw a need for more on-the-grid energy options.
"It involved a lot of research and learning and hard work and failure until we eventually got some work and built off of that,” Trimble said.
Now, the Trimbles have seven employees and are exponentially growing their business.
The company's projects range from residential homes, like an 18-panel installation for a Wasilla resident, to commercial work like a 150-panel project for the Cook Inlet Housing Authority.
Trimble said they installed about 1,000 panels around Southcentral Alaska last year; this year they’ll triple that.
"That’s what you always hope for as an entrepreneur and a business owner is the idea you have will take off,” he said.
Bittner advises people considering their own startup to really think the venture through before investing capital.
“And don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are so many resources out there in this state for people who want to help small businesses grow and succeed while they’re in the 'Valley of Death,' they call it, for the first three years,” Bittner said.
The Trimbles are just getting past that mark. They’re encouraged by the community support and push other companies to take a chance too.
"Be available and work all the time, that’s the best advice I can give to a small business or someone thinking about starting a small business in Alaska. Work hard but really enjoy the relationships you build because that’s what it’s all about,” Trimble said.
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