Set Up Shop: Empowering Entrepreneurs BY Por Nick Bachman, Camilo Ortiz & Emily Cohn
Benigna y Rosalba Martínez.
Small businesses, and the entrepreneurs behind them, are vital to our city’s economy and communities. Yet, it is not always easy to start one.
Anchorage Community Land Trust (ACLT) is working to reduce barriers faced by entrepreneurs in low-income neighborhoods through a program called Set Up Shop. Launched in 2018, Set Up Shop empowers entrepreneurs by offering training, workshops, technical assistance, lending, real estate support, and more.
“There are tons of talented people in our community. This program provides existing and aspiring business owners an opportunity to develop skills to help their business grow or to start one.” said Kirk Rose, CEO of ACLT.
Since launching, Set Up Shop has trained over 70 entrepreneurs, lent $85,000 to business owners, and provided over 400 hours of technical assistance. Graduates of the program come from a wide variety of backgrounds, as is common in Anchorage. Last fall included a class where every entrepreneur was an English Language Learner. The program strives to provide services for entrepreneurs who have not been able to access important resources- things like bank loans and business school that are high-cost and difficult to obtain. Set Up Shop has had a few graduates from Anchorage’s strong Latinx community and hopes to work with more in the coming years.
The Bautista Lescas, a family from Oaxaca, Mexico manages Ba-Lescas Brothers fresh produce and artisan cuisine and graduated from Set Up Shop last Spring.
Sisters and recent Set Up Shop graduates Benigna and Rosalba Martinez were born and raised in the village of Juxtlahuaca in Mexico. Rosalba learned to cook when looking after her sister from a very early age. “My sister started cooking for us when she was 8 years old,” Benigna says. Rosalba was clearly a natural; “She could make big tortillas, salsas, and everything to feed the family.” In 2009, the two sisters moved to Anchorage. “We wanted to sell our food at local markets but found the permitting and regulations to be overly complex.” This past summer, the sisters heard about Set Up Shop and enrolled in the training class. “We learned about regulations and taxes and built our business plan. We loved being in a class with other people who are building their businesses. We formed a fun and supportive community.”
The sisters are now working to achieve their near-term goal of selling fresh Oaxacan Foods at a Farmer’s Market. Eventually, they would like to operate a food truck. “Starting a business lets us do what we love to do: cook together and feed people healthy, delicious food.” Today, the sisters cook almost every day and use Sunday afternoons to test recipes and work on their menu. Both are excited to see what the future holds. For entrepreneurs who are looking to start or grow, Set Up Shop is currently accepting applications for its next cohort. You can learn more information and apply at https://anchoragelandtrust.org/set-up-shop/.
PROUDLY POWERED BY SOL DE MEDIANOCHE NEWS, LLC. Sol de Medianoche is a monthly publication of the Latino community in Anchorage, Alaska