Alaska Perfect Peony selected as American Small Business Champion

Homer flower farm Alaska Perfect Peony has been selected as one of two Alaska winners of the American Small Business Championship. Now in its fifth year, the contest rewards the best American small businesses in their community. Alaska Perfect Peony owner Rita Jo Shoultz will receive an all-expense paid trip this month to Reno, Nevada, where she will meet other business owners for networking and get training from SCORE, a nonprofit organization that helps mentor small business owners.

“We were totally surprised to receive the award,” Shoultz wrote in an email. “Cut flowers doesn’t usually come to mind when big outfits are thinking about small businesses.”

Also selected to represent Alaska is Game On video exchange store in Juneau owned by Casey Harris.

Winners competed with a pool of more than 1,100 applicants, and were selected through a combination of online voting and judging by a panel of small business experts, according to a press release. The application asked each entrepreneur to describe the unique aspects of their small business that have contributed to their success, their positive impact on the community, and their plans to use the prizes to grow their business operations or revenue.

Alaska Perfect Peony and the other winners compete for three grand prizes of $15,000 each — courtesy of Sam’s Club — which will be awarded at the SCORE Awards Gala on Sept. 13 outside of Washington, D.C.

“SCORE congratulates and celebrates these 102 American Small Business Champions, who represent some of the best small businesses in America,” said SCORE CEO Ken Yancey in a press release. “We are proud to reward these passionate and hardworking entrepreneurs with business mentoring, publicity and additional networking and training opportunities, and we look forward to watching them utilize these tools to further grow their business success.”

The 102 winners come from 48 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, and represent a diverse array of industries and services.

Shoultz said Bryan Zak, Kenai Peninsula Center Director of the Alaska Small Business Development Center, and also Homer mayor, encouraged her to apply. The first peony farm in Alaska, Alaska Perfect Peony ships frest-cut peonies to 50 states and Canada. It helped spur growth of the peony and fresh-cut flower agriculture business on the lower Kenai Peninsula, with now about 25 producers.