Eric Fullerton makes his investment pitch during the Alaska Tourism Industry Association’s version of “Shark Tank” during their annual conference, held this year at Centennial Center, Oct. 9, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Eric Fullerton makes his investment pitch during the Alaska Tourism Industry Association’s version of “Shark Tank” during their annual conference, held this year at Centennial Center, Oct. 9, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Small businesses win big in Alaska version of ‘Shark Tank’

The mock game show was hosted at a yearly Alaskan tourism conference

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story misidentified a company as Go Hike Alaska. The company’s name is Hike Alaska. It has since been updated.

The Alaska Travel Industry Association’s annual conference was punctuated Wednesday by the homegrown Alaska tourism version of the game show “Shark Tank.”

Applicants to the competition pitched their ideas to a panel of three industry executives with the hope of winning cash prizes to advance their business. Scott Habberstad from Alaska Airlines, Heather Handyside from GCI, and Dale Wade from Alaska Railroad judged nine competitors and awarded $17,000 dollars in varying amounts to several contestants.

Contestants came pitching everything from expanded marketing for their snowshoe tour business to improved lifesaving gear for their boat tours.

KellyAnn Cavaretta waits as the judges deliberate over her investment pitch during the Alaska Tourism Industry Association’s version of “Shark Tank” during their annual conference, held this year at Centennial Center, Oct. 9, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

KellyAnn Cavaretta waits as the judges deliberate over her investment pitch during the Alaska Tourism Industry Association’s version of “Shark Tank” during their annual conference, held this year at Centennial Center, Oct. 9, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

“It feels great,” said one winner, KellyAnn Cavaretta.

Cavaretta was promoting Salted Roots, a nature retreat in Seward based on coastal A-frame cabins, built for a new generation of travelers who want different amenities in their vacations than baby boomers did, such as more of an experience and more distance from civilization. Her ask for $5,000 was to improve her marketing model. Cavaretta also won the crowd favorite award, receiving another $2,000.

“It’s about the exposure,” Cavaretta said, echoing an oft-heard refrain of the conference.

Cavaretta and other competitors had to stand and deliver their pitch on stage before the judges and a crowd of hundreds of peers. They had a limited period of time to pitch their request, and judges asked questions about things such as viability, market and scalability afterwards. Some competitors dressed soberly, but some were more eye-catching, including at least on competitor dressed as Elvis, Eric Fullerton.

Matt Worden makes his investment pitch during the Alaska Tourism Industry Association’s version of “Shark Tank” during their annual conference, held this year at Centennial Center, Oct. 9, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Matt Worden makes his investment pitch during the Alaska Tourism Industry Association’s version of “Shark Tank” during their annual conference, held this year at Centennial Center, Oct. 9, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Matt Worden, owner of Hike Alaska, was another big winner, netting $5,000 for expanded kit to scale his business up incrementally after a quietly successful first year in operation in Anchorage. Dressed in a full snowsuit, snowshoes and hiking kit, Worden shot his shot after feeding judges the same locally sourced food that he feeds his guests.

“It’s kind of like a dream come true,” Worden said. “It’s going to help me get to the next place along the way.”

Worden is working on expanding his off-season business, getting into team-building hikes and other ways of keeping a steady business.

Other winners included Alice Bioff of Naataq Gear and Ian Laing of Laing & Co, who each won $2,500.

Judges and competitors pose for a photo after participating in the Alaska Tourism Industry Association’s version of “Shark Tank” during their annual conference, held this year at Centennial Center, Oct. 9, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Judges and competitors pose for a photo after participating in the Alaska Tourism Industry Association’s version of “Shark Tank” during their annual conference, held this year at Centennial Center, Oct. 9, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)


• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.


More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of April 8

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, April 12, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, April 11, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

The sky and mountains are reflected in the water on April 5, 2012, at the Kootznoowoo Wilderness in the Tongass National Forest’s Admiralty Island National Monument. Conservation organizations bought some private land and transferred it to the U.S. Forest Service, resulting in an incremental expansion of the Kootznoowoo Wilderness and protection of habitat important to salmon and wildlife. (Photo by Don MacDougall/U.S. Forest Service)
Conservation groups’ purchase preserves additional land in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

A designated wilderness area in Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the largest… Continue reading

A welcome sign is shown Sept. 22, 2021, in Tok. President Joe Biden won Alaska’s nominating contest on Saturday. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Biden wins more delegates in Alaska and Wyoming as he heads toward Democratic nomination

President Joe Biden nudged further ahead in the Democratic nomination for reelection… Continue reading

Juneau Assembly members and other visitors examine a meeting room formerly used by the nine-member Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development on Monday, April 8, which is about 25% larger than the Assembly Chambers at City Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Of three possible new City Hall buildings, one stands out — but plenty of proposed uses for other two

Michael J. Burns Building eyed as city HQ; childcare, animal shelter among options at school sites.

Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, speaks to members of the Senate majority caucus’ leadership group on Friday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Schools, university and projects across Alaska are set to receive money from new budget bill

Alaska Senate sends draft capital budget to House as work continues on a state spending plan

The Boney Courthouse in downtown Anchorage, across the street from the larger Nesbett Courthouse, holds the Alaska Supreme Court chambers. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska judge strikes down state’s cash payments to families using correspondence school programs

Decision will become a ‘hot-button legislative item’ in final weeks of session, lawmakers say.

A statue of William Henry Seward stands outside the Dimond Courthouse in downtown Juneau. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Juneau man convicted of sexual abuse of 15-year-old girl more than four years after incidents occur

JPD: Randy James Willard, 39, sent explicit videos to and engaged in sexual contact with victim.

Most Read