Empowering Alaska’s Entrepreneurs

New Indigenous Set Up Shop program offers launch pad for Alaska Native artists, business-owners, and others

What do a massage therapist, a self-defense guru, a software developer, and an artist have in common? All four are part of the first Indigenous Set Up Shop cohort to have access to Cook Inlet Tribal Council’s (CITC) new Super Fab Lab.

CITC COO LeeAnn Garrick speaks to the first cohort of the new Indigenous Set Up Shop Program, aimed at Alaska Native/American Indian entrepreneurs.

Support Community Innovation

Out of 32 applicants, 15 individuals were selected to be part of the Indigenous Set Up Shop program, which had its first meet-up at the end of May. The cohort visited the Super Fab Lab to get a hands-on preview of the tools at their disposal.

The Indigenous Set-Up Shop program is the first step toward opening the Super Fab Lab to local entrepreneurs and other community members. By providing greater access to technology, CITC hopes to support Alaska Native and other individuals pursuing innovative ideas and business opportunities.

“The vision from our board is to provide programs that are more accessible and can draw people in to this community makerspace,” clarified Marcy Herman, director of strategic projects and initiatives at CITC. “The Super Fab Lab will expand existing CITC youth programs, but it will also bring digital technologies to a wider range of people, including entrepreneurs.”

The first cohort of the Indigenous Set Up Shop program brought 15 entrepreneurs together for business training, product development, and lending services.

Super-Sizing STEM Resources

The Super Fab Lab builds upon CITC’s existing Fab Lab, which has delivered thousands of hours of culturally infused science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning to Anchorage School District students since its inception in 2013.

When CITC opened its Fab Lab, it was the first of its kind in Alaska. Equipped with digital manufacturing tools like 3D printers and laser cutters, the Fab Lab quickly became the site of in-school, after-school, and camp-based programs for elementary, middle-, and high-school children throughout Anchorage and surrounding communities.

The Super Fab Lab will triple the existing Fab Lab’s size — and will open the doors to innovation to the wider community. With the Set Up Shop program, the Super Fab Lab will partner with other organizations to offer an experience in which budding entrepreneurs can make their business dreams come true.

With access to the Super Fab Lab, entrepreneurs can use tools like 3D printers to create product prototypes.

Indigenous Set Up Shop

Since 2019, the Anchorage Community Land Trust (ACLT) has offered free business training, product design, and lending services to entrepreneurs at every stage of business development. Targeted to Anchorage neighborhoods like Mountain View, Fairview, Spenard, and Muldoon, the original Set Up Shop program has empowered women and people of color to launch and run their own businesses.

Set Up Shop participants learn how to develop a business plan and brand and market their products; they also gain access to accounting, web design, licensing, and permitting, plus support from Cook Inlet Lending Center (CILC) with applying for small business loans.

With Indigenous Set Up Shop, which started this month, ACLT and CILC are collaborating with CITC to offer the program exclusively for Alaska Native, American Indian, and Native Hawaiian entrepreneurs. Access to the Super Fab Lab will provide program participants with resources that help them design and manufacture products; they’ll be able to develop prototypes, screen-print merchandise, solve business problems, and much more, all with the support of Super Fab Lab educators.

Empowering Entrepreneurs

While CITC has a history of providing pathways for Alaska Native and other people to pursue education and careers, this is the first time the organization is launching a program targeted specifically at entrepreneurs.

“This is a whole different arena for us,” said Marcy. “Jobs are available — but think of how meaningful it is for artists to be making their own wares and selling them. Entrepreneurship can provide flexibility and money directly to the entrepreneur. The Set Up Shop program is the perfect way to connect support for entrepreneurs directly to the new Super Fab Lab.”

The Super Fab Lab is scheduled to open in February 2023.

Stay tuned for additional information about CITC’s newest makerspace, coming soon! Follow CITC on Facebook, or learn more about education and STEM at CITC here.