By LINDSAY OLSEN
FOR THE HOMER NEWS
A chatty group gathered in the quiet section of the Homer Public Library and munched on cookies and strawberries. The happy occasion for such library rule-bending was announcement of the 2014 winners of the Friends of the Homer Library’s BIZ-Idea contest. The competition, which is held every other year, offers cash prizes to the top three best new business ideas submitted by community members. Applicants are judged on their innovation and uniqueness, sustainability, and economic value to the community.
“Each time we’ve gotten amazing applications,” said Erin Hollowell, Friends of the Homer Library coordinator. “In the past, several of these applications have become full-fledged, important businesses in our community, such as Cycle-Logical, Homer Hounds and the (Ring of Fire) Meadery. This year was no different.”
The first place prize went to Anchor Point resident David Harris for his proposal of the Alaskan Fisherman’s Boot Buddy.
“To give credit where credit is due, it was my mom’s idea,” said the 19-year-old, shyly, as he accepted his award.
His winning design is a mobile tackle box that clips to the top of an XtraTuf boot. It contains a small piece of foam that can hold up to six fish hooks and four lures, as well as a small pouch for a cork. Harris said that the idea came to him and his mom, Carrie Harris, this summer.
“We would go to the Fishing Hole often, and every time we went to grab our
tackle box we kept getting stepped in front of. My mom started attaching hooks to her boot so we wouldn’t lose our place.”
The Harrises intend to use the prize money to launch production of the Boot Buddy through NOMAR, and sell the finished products through local retailers and online.
“I’m currently unemployed,” said David Harris. “But I’m hoping to make this my full-time job.”
The second place prize was awarded to Bumppo Bremicker for his proposed Kachemak Bay Community Co-op Storage Facility. The facility would help local farmers store their hearty root vegetables in an insulated, moisture-controlled building, allowing them to sell their goods throughout the winter.
“It could be a co-op thing that could really help support local farmers,” Bermicker said.
Third place went to Susannah Webster for her proposal of Homer Creative Works, a shared community art space that would sell memberships and day-passes, operating much like a gym.
It would include a ceramic studio, a print-making studio, a dark room, and a digital editing studio. Webster, who is busy running her own small business, Small Pond Childcare, doesn’t intend to launch her proposal any time soon.
She said the idea came to her from watching how many burgeoning artists there are in Homer looking for studio space.
“If you don’t have a rich fisherman spouse, it’s really hard to build your own studio,” she said. “There’s profit there.”
For the first time this year, the Friends of the Homer Library also recognized an Entrepreneur of the Year and two honorable mentions.
The candidates were nominated by community members, and decisions were based on the length, success and growth of their entrepreneurial effort, how it meets a community need or fills a unique niche, and their initiative and innovation.
Allen Engebretsen of Bay Weld Boats was named Entrepreneur of the Year. He launched his successful boat-building business out of a truck in 1974.
Adrienne Sweeney, owner of the Driftwood Inn and AJ’s Steakhouse, and Tavern, received an honorable mention. A second honorable mention went to Daniel Zatz of Zatzworks Inc., a company that designs specialized camera equipment and helicopter mounts for capturing high-quality aerial footage.
“I never started out thinking I’d be here with my own business,” Engebretsen said, accepting his award. “I started into it when I was 24 because I loved doing it. I was doing projects nobody else would touch, and that’s how I got my foot in the door.”
He added that one of the most rewarding parts of owning his own business is being able to mentor young people through the process.
“I now work with young guys who come out with tremendous ability,” he said.
As the ceremony ended, winners and applicants shook hands and exchanged contact information, following up on statements of shared interest. In the corner, a young girl described her idea for a chicken egg-laying business to onlookers.
Hollowell thanked all the applicants for their submissions, and commented how this competition showcases Homer’s unique entrepreneurial spirit.
“The breadth and depth of these ideas shows the breadth and depth of our community,” she said.
Lindsay Olsen is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.