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Sustainable Small Businesses Move Forward on the Olympic Peninsula

June 23, 2017 (Forks, Washington) — Fifteen emerging entrepreneurs from coastal communities along the Emerald Edge of the Olympic Peninsula concluded a four-day Entrepreneurship Intensive June 14-18 at the University of Washington Olympic Natural Resource Center in Forks. The participants are finalists in the 2017 Washington Coast Works Small Business Competition vying for up to $10,000 in startup financing.

The Intensive focused on entrepreneurship, the fundamentals of a triple bottom line business model, and the role that small businesses can play in building resilient and conservation-oriented local economies. The 2017 Coast Works Title Sponsor is KeyBank. Additional support is provided by the Jamestown-S’Klallam Tribe, Bank of the Pacific, Port of Port Angeles, and Washington State Department of Commerce.

“Now the real work begins,” says Mike Skinner, Director of the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship and the Washington Coast Works Administrator. “Participants have been immersed in business fundamentals and strategies needed to develop a triple bottom line business model,” adds Skinner. “They now move forward with ongoing training and one-on-one technical assistance from experienced business advisors to apply what they have learned.”

Finalists will present their written case statement and a five-minute “fast pitch” to a panel of independent judges in late Fall . Past and present Coast Works entrepreneurs, sponsors, funders, partners, and folks from the Coast Works communities will be invited to celebrate the finalists and help launch a new Coast Works Alliance.

Kriska Obermiller from Sequim, is starting a Native storytelling business. “I’m so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and attended this training,” she says. “I met some amazing people. We are the dream warriors, and this is where it starts.”

Jess Foss, from Amanda Park, participated last year and re-applied with a new business venture that resources byproducts of his biodiesel-powered stump grinding business. “Coast Works has changed my life,” says Foss. “I didn’t think it was possible to start my own business. Now, I’m up and running and sales are growing fast.”

To learn about sponsorship and mentoring opportunities or how to contribute to the prize money through our crowd-funding campaign, visit, or contact Mike Skinner at (206) 235-6029.


Three Budding Entrepreneurs Get a Jump Start

Washington Coast Works Sustainable Small Business Competition Winners Announced

Coast Works Winners
Coast Works Winners

GRAYS HARBOR, WA—Perseverance and vision paid off for three budding small business owners, the winners of the Washington Coast Works small business competition announced recently at the Grays Harbor Business Leaders Banquet.

Emily Foster, a Quileute tribal member from LaPush, in Clallam County, won the first-place prize of $10,000 for equipment and supplies to launch Lonzo’s Seafood Company, offering smoked Quileute-caught fresh salmon.

“This award means so much to both myself and the Quileute community, because fishing is an integral part of my family history and tribal heritage. The prize money will provide me an opportunity to expand the Quileute fish market in a sustainable way and keep the profits within our local community” Foster said.

“I am excited about this business because I will be promoting the seafood that comes from Quileute. Growing up as the daughter of a commercial fisherman who has made a living fishing and crabbing for over 30 years, this business will allow me to work with him directly and benefit from his years of expertise.”

Runners up were Liz Ellis, from Aberdeen in Grays Harbor County, and Jean Ramos, a Quinault tribal elder from Queets, in Jefferson County, who each received $5,000 to launch their businesses.
Ellis is starting the East Aberdeen Community Farm, where neighbors in the Wishkah River lowlands can grow, market and buy fresh local produce. Ramos is creating SovereigNDNTea, a business selling locally and sustainably foraged Labrador tea.

The three were chosen from 12 semifinalists, who have all participated in workshops on entrepreneurship, business, and sustainability. Finalists also had access to one-on-one technical assistance from experienced business advisors to develop and refine their business concepts.

“I’d like to congratulate the local entrepreneurs who took home the Washington Coast Works prize,” said Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-WA, who presented the awards. “The Nature Conservancy and the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship are continuing to lead the effort to give our region’s small businesses an open field to launch their ideas and make a positive impact. This competition illustrated the great work happening on the Olympic Peninsula to create sustainable jobs and drive innovation.”

“We’re proud to have been able to play a role in helping support and inspire a new generation of coastal business leaders, who share our vision that a healthy environment and a healthy economy depend on each other,” said Mike Stevens, Washington state director for The Nature Conservancy. “Even in this first year of the Coast Works business competition, the caliber of entrepreneurs was exceptional and gives me hope for the long-term prosperity of our rural and tribal communities.”

Prize funding was provided by First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Port Angeles and the Quinault Indian Nation.

Plans are underway for next year’s competition, which is expected to get underway in early 2016. Watch the Washington Coast Works website,, for updates.

The competition is presented by the Taala Fund, the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship at Pinchot University, and The Nature Conservancy in an effort to diversify the local economy through the development of new small businesses, build business leadership in local communities, grow a constituency that supports conservation and sustainable natural resource use, and ultimately contribute to a new vision of sustainable community and economic development on the Washington Coast.