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2021 Business Plan Competition Winners Chosen

April 1, 2021
Grand prize winner Qizhjeh Vena LLC

The College of Business and Public Policy is pleased to announce the winners of its 2021 Business Plan Competition, which culminated last week when four finalists presented their plans to a panel of judges and 80 attendees at the Perfect Pitch event. This year’s competition was open to both UAA students and community members.

Telequana Outdoor Journeys LLC, which recently changed its name to Qizhjeh Vena LLC, took the Grand Prize for a plan to provide Indigenously-influenced ecotourism experiences in the Lake Clark area. Business partners include Kiana Till, a student at Alaska Pacific University, Karen Evanoff, a cultural anthropologist with Lake Clark National Park, and Danielle Stickman. Their group also tied for the People’s Choice award, for a grand total of $7,250 in prize money.

Aimee Hassell, a UAA student and employee, won second place and tied for People’s Choice with her business, Tiny Haven LLC, a start-up that endeavors to build a community of tiny homes to provide affordable student housing during the school year and accommodations for tourists in the summer months. Her two awards totaled $3,750.

“This competition aims to inspire entrepreneurship that can contribute to economic growth in Alaska and to provide a forum for community engagement,” said competition organizer Dr. Helena Wisniewski, who is a seasoned entrepreneur and Chair of the Department of Management, Marketing, Logistics and Business Analytics. “It was exciting to see the diversity of the startups and the business acumen shown in the final pitches. It confirmed the talent we have in Alaska to grow and diversify the economy.”

“As a judge, I am always amazed at the business ideas the participants bring forward, the caliber of the business plans, and the motivation shown during their presentations,” said Jim Kostka, Chief Operating Officer and Owner of Alaskan Data Solutions, which also developed the new First Fortune $500 Award. “Without a doubt, these students have a solid understanding of every aspect of the business plan, and will go on to be outstanding employees/team members in the business community or will be emerging as the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

second place and People’s Choice winner Tiny Haven LLC

The 2021 Business Plan Competition began in October 2020 and included a series of events designed to inspire and guide contestants to create well-developed business plans and a “perfect pitch.” Participants were mentored by business executives, entrepreneurs and investors. “It’s a tremendous experience for all the entrepreneurial competitors,” said John Nofsinger, CBPP interim dean. “They get education, mentoring and exposure to successful business professionals. All of the participants this year were terrific and I endeavor to witness their ideas flourish.”

“We learned a lot through this process,” said Hassell. “How to do the perfect pitch, how to look at our business plan in a different way. We had very strict guidelines on how to submit. I want to thank all the judges and the mentors for the help that they provided through the process.”

“This gave us the boost to really feel launched,” said Till, who had worked on her business plan for two years. She was motivated to write a third version of her plan when she learned about the competition. “I was super excited to see something local and geared towards entrepreneurs! Thanks to the awesome guidelines listed in the rule book, this is the best version of the plan I’ve ever written.”

“Judging the excellent submissions in the Business Plan Competition this year was an absolute joy,” said Joe Zimmerman, business owner and chair of CBPP’s Advisory Board. “It was inspiring to review the creative ideas submitted and the solid plans for putting these concepts into practice. I see a lot of successes for our economy as plans such as these contribute to our future.”


  • Mr. Jon Bittner, State Director, Alaska Small Business Development Center
  • Ms. Candy Fitzpatrick, Founder, Restangles, LLC
  • Mr. Allan Johnston, Chief Encouragement Officer
  • Mr. James Kostka, Chief Operating Officer and Owner Alaskan Data Solutions
  • Mr. Steve Socolof, Managing Partner, Tech Council Ventures
  • Dr. Helena Wisniewski, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Chair Management, Marketing, Logistics & Business Analytics Department, College of Business and Public Policy.
  • Mr. Greg Wolf, Executive Director, World Trade Center Alaska and Vice Chair Advisory Board, College of Business and Public Policy
  • Mr. Joel Yarmon, Founder and Managing Director, Pipeline Capital partners
  • Mr. Joe Zimmerman, Owner and Director of Cook Inlet Marketing Group, Inc., Chair, Dean’s Advisory Board, College of Business and Public Policy

Community sponsors included Northrim Bank, Mr. Allan Johnston, and Alaskan Data Solutions.

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2020 Business Plan Competition Winners