Small businesses are important to the economy, but it’s not always easy to start one.

The Alaska Community Land Trust (ACLT) is removing the roadblocks for entrepreneurs living in low-income neighborhoods, specifically Mountain View, Fairview and Spenard, with a program called Set Up Shop.

Launched in 2018, Set Up Shop seeks to empower entrepreneurs by offering training programs and workshops, plus lending resources and other support.

“There is tons of untapped talent in our neighborhoods and this program provides them with training, technical assistance, lending and real estate so that they can go forward with launching the business of their dreams,” Kirk Rose, CEO of ACLT, said.

Chrystel Bankhead took advantage of the program last year. Bankhead, who was born and raised in Anchorage, is a young mother supporting two households and says she always dreamed of making a difference in her community.

“I've had to work very hard just to even be self-sufficient, let alone have enough money to start a business,” Bankhead said.

She was working as a case manager when she got the idea to start a transportation service for children, called Alaska Kid Cruiser, but she didn’t know where to start.

She said ACLT helped her to brainstorm and prioritize what she needed to start her business.

“They are also connecting me with different service providers for legal consultation, marketing and building my website,” Bankhead said.

Alaska Kid Cruiser is still a few months away from being ready to roll, but Bankhead says the Set Up Shop team is helping her work out the details of her business while she gets it started.

In its first year, Set Up Shop trained 37 entrepreneurs. Of those, 82 percent were from minority communities, 77 percent were women, 84 percent came from low-income neighborhoods, and 10 were refugee or immigrant participants, according to data from ACLT.

In 2018, Set Up Shop also says it provided 87 hours of pro bono technical assistance to 11 businesses, including to Mountain View restaurant West Berlin.


The restaurant’s owner, Bill Hoopai, says they received free logo and rebranding services, as well as new signage.

“I'm trying to get the community going with German food and they're kind of helping me because this food hasn't been here long,” Hoopai said. “They were really smart enough to give me that type of look and a lot of people compliment about the signage.” 

In the coming year, ACLT hopes to train 60 new entrepreneurs through Set Up Shop, lend $100,000 to businesses looking to grow and provide increased technical assistance hours and services.

You can learn more about how to apply for the Set Up Shop program on its website.

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