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Finalists to Compete in Perfect Pitch, April 7

March 28, 2023

The UAA College of Business and Public Policy Business Plan Competition will conclude on Friday, April 7, from 5-7:30 pm with Perfect Pitch, a free event held at UAA’s Rasmuson Hall. Four finalists will showcase their business plans at a mini trade show, followed by remarks from Alaska State Senator Shelley Hughes and live investor pitches.

Guests are welcome to register and join in the fun as they learn about the finalists and cast votes for the People’s Choice Award.

Business Plan Competition organizer Dr. Helena S. Wisniewski, a professor of entrepreneurship and chair of UAA’s Department of Management, Marketing, Logistics and Business Analytics, has gathered a team of expert judges from Alaska to the East Coast. They will announce the winners at the end of the evening, awarding a total of $18,000 in prizes.

How to attend

RSVP soon, as space is limited.


This year’s finalists include Apex Ladderbox, Elysian Word Editing, Kartorium, and PuffyCheeks.

APEX LadderBox LLC

APEX LadderBox LLC

Owner: Ross Spencer

“Blue-collar American workers hold some of the toughest jobs there are and we are proud to design products that work hard for them,” said APEX LadderBox owner Ross Spencer. The company’s first product, APEX LadderBox, is a large compartment for staging bulky tools and materials. It latches into the top of an A-frame step ladder. The APEX LadderBox “eliminates unnecessary trips, dropped and broken tools, and worker idleness of handing items up and down the ladder. Also, by occupying the top step of the ladder, APEX inherently increases safety by discouraging workers from standing on the top step.”

Spencer is a UAA student on track to graduate in December with a major in business management with an emphasis in real estate management. Inspiration for his business comes from watching his dad remodel their house. “I watched him work so hard. I got the job staged at the bottom of the ladder to hand tools up and down (without a cellphone to keep me entertained), I started thinking there’s got to be a better way.”

He is also a repeat Business Plan Competition finalist. Last year Spencer walked away with second place and substantial judges’ feedback that has been extremely helpful. “As my company gets closer to raising capital, I have a better understanding of what investors want to know and have been making some adjustments to better respond.”

Throughout the process of the competition, he has learned that creating a successful business plan takes a lot of hard work. “I love problem solving and at the end of the day that’s what businesses are created to do. I think it’s important for innovative thinkers like myself and my fellow classmates to not be afraid to pursue our dreams, because when we succeed, we create jobs, improve our neighborhoods, and fuel our economy.”

In addition to his very full course load, university curricular activities and business pursuits, Spencer enjoys volunteering at his church, spending time with his wife and two dogs, and “reading books about becoming a DAD… coming soon September 2023!”

Elysian Word Editing

Elysian Word Editing

Owner: Elyse Applegate

While scientific (non-medical) and professional technical businesses such as engineering and construction firms in Alaska may not need full-time employees for content creation tasks, they may still need these services. Elysian Word Editing (EWE) is a small, woman-owned business that hopes to fill that need by providing a virtual storefront for technical writing, editing, graphic design, and social media marketing.

Owner Elyse Applegate likes to write and is also a freelance illustrator. She was inspired to create the business as a way to sell her writing and technical editing skills gained from her education and throughout her career. She graduated from UAA in 2022 with an MS in Project Management. She also holds an MA in Cultural Resource Management and a BA in Journalism and Public Communications, both from UAA.

Applegate said the process of participating in the Business Plan Competition has taught her how to be more concise in her writing and goal-oriented financially.

When asked about the importance of entrepreneurship to Alaska, she noted that Alaska is a unique and diverse community, but has a less diversified economy and is geographically isolated compared to the rest of the US (with the exceptions of Hawaii and US territories). “I'd like to see that economy grow and provide people in-state with more choices for employment and when seeking resources. Students and younger generations offer an opportunity to invigorate the economy if they choose to stay and deploy their ideas and skills in Alaska.”

Outside of her work as a full-time graphic designer for University of Alaska Fairbanks, Applegate loves spending time outdoors. ”I especially enjoy introducing our toddler to new Alaskan adventures and encouraging her creativity with my myriad art supplies!”



Owner: Jay Byam

Kartorium offers an intuitive online 3D digital twin platform that allows non-technical users to create and share interactive virtual copies of real-world environments. Users at all levels in an organization can annotate their digital twins with relevant information including videos, images, documents, and live data feeds. It has been in operation for three years and now serves clients across several sectors, including energy, water utilities, seafood processing, and housing.

Owner Jay Byam explained that using this platform results in reduced downtimes of key equipment, increased operational efficiency, less high-cost reactive maintenance, and increased life of facilities and equipment.

Byam holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in computer science from University of Alaska Fairbanks. One of his first jobs as a programmer was developing 3D, VR, and AR experiences for exhibits and trade shows. “I saw that we rebuilt many of the core features for each project, and I knew that a reusable platform would allow for much faster iterations. The need to layer data on top of visualizations came from my time as a software consultant in oil and gas.”

“It's very important to prove that successful business can come out of Alaska,” Byam said. “I see that most promising young people my age and younger leave the state to pursue more legitimate opportunities. My hope is that a few strong examples of local entrepreneurship will inspire a wave of innovation from the next generation, showing them that it's possible and that it's possible here.”

Throughout this competition, Byam has learned it’s important to revisit your business plan periodically, even after starting. “There have been significant changes in our market, in our target customers, and even in our core value propositions since the last time we did a business plan, just over a year ago. The updated plan has helped inform changes in our strategic direction.”

In addition to running Kartorium, Byam is an avid player of board games.

Puffy Cheeks

Puffy Cheeks

Owners: Paige Krichbaum, Sarah Lanners

Established in 2021, Puffy Cheeks is a French style coffee shop and bakery, selling traditional French pastries paired with coffee and tea. It debuted at various fairs and weddings, with a vision for growth as a dedicated storefront.

“We provide a comfortable inviting space to create and indulge, whether that is the latest chapter in your book or to work on your latest crochet project,” said owners Paige Krichbaum and Sarah Lanners. “We also cater to our faster pace consumers, offering grab and go pastries and espresso. ”The main draw at Puffy Cheeks will be the pastry case, with a variety of croissants, cakes, tarts, macarons and eclairs, and freshly baked French artisan bread. Puffy Cheeks also expects to “provide a beautiful welcoming environment to host events throughout the year.”

“It is important to us to share our experiences with others along with creating new experiences with fellow Alaskans side by side,” they said. “We always want to keep business local and small first, even if that means going the hard route.”

Krichbaum graduated from UAA in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management and a minor in Culinary Arts and then earned an MBA from Alaska Pacific University. Her croissant-rolling skills and appreciation for French baked goods started in high school, when she began working at Paris Bakery. The closure of Paris Bakery showed Krichbaum that there is a gap in the market for traditional French products and culture. She wants to be the one to provide that for Alaskans.

Lanner holds a BA in horticulture from University of Minnesota Crookston, and brings years of management and marketing experience to Puffy Cheeks. “The feelings I have for French culture are similar to the joy when I first felt myself surrounded by mountains 6 years ago when I moved to Alaska,” she said.

Lanner loves the mountains, sports, traveling, trying new food, having new experiences, and after all of that, her favorite "hobby" is spending her down times at home with her partner and animals. Krichbaum sometimes loves all those things, she said, but mostly loves to craft in a variety of mediums while also spending her down times at home with her fiance and animals.


Judges for the 2023 CBPP Business Plan Competition are dedicated to supporting entrepreneurship, innovation and Alaska start-ups. They are:

  • Jon Bittner, State Director, Alaska Small Business Development Center (AK SBDC)
  • Art Clark, Co-founder, Alaska Real Estate Associates (AREA)
  • Evelyn Jacome, Project Manager, Alaska Center ICE
  • Linda Janes, Director, gBETA Anchorage gener8tor
  • Allan Johnston, Chief Encouragement Officer
  • James Kostka, Chief Operating Officer and Owner, Alaskan Data Solutions
  • Steve Socolof, Managing Partner, Tech Council Ventures
  • Dr. Charlene Walters, Entrepreneurship Coach
  • Dr. Helena S. Wisniewski, Professor of Entrepreneurship & Chair, Department of Management, Marketing, Logistics, and Business Analytics, UAA College of Business and Public Policy
  • Greg Wolf, Executive Director, World Trade Center Alaska (WTCAK)
  • Joel Yarmon, Founder and Managing Director, Pipeline Capital Partners
  • Joe Zimmermann, Owner/Director, Cook Inlet Marketing Group Inc.


Generous sponsors for the 2023 CBPP Business Plan Competition include:

  • Supporting Partners: Alaska Community Foundation, Allan Johnston, GCI, Northrim Bank
  • Partners: Alyeska Pipeline, Educational Legacy Fund
  • Sponsors: Alaskan Data Solutions
Support the Alaska Business Plan Competition