Alaskan Brewing

A small business success story

Posted: Thursday, June 24, 2004

Alaskan Brewing Co. owner Geoff Larson's success came down to the final investor and last penny.

Larson and his wife, Marcy, had set 4:30 p.m. Feb. 28, 1986, as the deadline for raising a certain amount of money from investors to start the company. At 4:15 p.m. that day, the final investor told Larson she did not have enough money in her checking account. Larson explained that without her check he would miss the deadline and by law have to return all the investors' money. She ended up writing a check for an odd amount, Larson recalled.

"That's what it really came down to: the last investor, the last minute, the last dime," Larson said.

Larson was a featured speaker at the Juneau Economic Development Council's first networking event Tuesday at Eaglecrest Ski Lodge. The event was designed to encourage local business ownership.

Networking was key to Larson's success, he said. He joined the local Toastmasters club and talked to more than 1,000 people in two years. Larson, a trained chemical engineer, retained a file of everyone he talked to and followed up with people who did not return telephone calls.

The best way to improve, Larson said, is to know your deficiences and have a positive attitude. Attitude is why the state has developed little manufacturing beyond the traditional mining, logging and fishing industries, he said.

While Alaskan Brewing is a mark of local success, owning a small business can be tiring, complicated work that requires planning, patience and perseverance, local business owners say.

"One of the things that rang true (from Larson's speech) was setting goals and having a plan when producing anything for consumption. Quality is important," said Ian Fisk, a new small business owner.

The local seafood industry learned too slowly the consequences of not maintaining quality fish after the farmed fish industry took market share, Fisk said.

Fisk, 33, and a partner recently purchased a fishing vessel to start a commercial fishing business.

"I and some of my friends are examples of young people who want to live in Alaska and invest in the natural resources industry," he said.

New small business owners should prepare for the unexpected, said Pam Green, who plans to open a soup cart downtown in July.

Green plans to open The Soup Queen, where she will sell homemade fare from a cart on a grassy area behind the library.

She bought a cart that was rigged with an electrical outlet, but learned later that there would be no electrical source at her location, she said. She added a propane tank.

Green also thought she would make four soups a day, but likely will begin with two.

"You need to remain fluid and flexible," Green said. "You need to know your mission and stick to your values."

Small business owners say to expect rejection when it comes to loans and setting up a location. But persistence pays off.

Fearlessness is crucial for small business owners to succeed, said David Summers, owner of Alaska Knifeworks on South Franklin Street.

"At the end of the day, entrepreneurs are not afraid of the future," Summers said. "Fear holds back a lot of people when it comes to doing their own thing."

• Tara Sidor can be reached at

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