Best In The West Competition Awards $26,000 To Seven Local Businesses

May 25, 2018

The Best In the West small business competition awarded $26,000 to local business owners in Bethel and the surrounding communities on May 21, 2018. From left to right: Louise Russell, Tracey Wilbanks, Lucas Salzbrun, Krystle Penaflor, Conor Burke, and Reyne Athanas.
Credit Krysti Shallenberger / KYUK

Some local entrepreneurs got more money this week to expand or jump-start their businesses. Seven winners took home a total of $26,000 from the annual Best in the West small business competition. The contest saw a drop in funding this year, as well as a drop in winners. All awardees came from Bethel or the surrounding communities.


Penaflor: My name is Krystle Penaflor. My business name is Fireweed Craft Company. I make running costumes and running t-shirts, and personalized things for friends and family, and I got $4,000 from the Best in the West competition. I'll buy a heat press and updated equipment, and inventory to make products that are personalized for our region.

Salzbrun: My name is Lucas Salzbrun. I'm the owner of Rural Service Solutions and I was awarded $4,000 from Best in the West. And I plan on buying a service van.

Russell: So my name is Louise Russell, and the name of my business is Jones Family Apiary. And it's a small business for honey, for honeybees here in Bethel, and then also some honeybee-related products. We got awarded $5,000 and we're going to be getting some insulated hives and hoping to overwinter bees here and increase what we have to sell.

Burke: Hi, my name is Conor Burke, founder of Conor Burke Enterprises. I was awarded $3,000 to purchase supplies, art supplies, and complete in the next year a 15 page coloring book. It's based all in the Y-K Delta, mostly around Bethel, and the money is going towards printing that.

Wilbanks: My name is Tracey Wilbanks. I have the Windy Willow Hair Salon. I was awarded $4,000 through Best in the West and I plan to use that to increase my retails because it's a little hard to get stuff here.

There were two more Best in the West winners who couldn’t make it to the awards ceremony. Christine Stone received $3,000 to boost local artisans in the community and Azara Mohammadi accepted $3,000 to digitize personal photos and videos.