ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - For anyone who’s ever thought of that business venture that wasn’t quite sure how to get it off the ground, there could be someone at Alaska Startup Weekend that can help.
Startup Weekend is a gathering of business and entrepreneurial leaders in the state of Alaska. From Friday, November 15th to 17th, attendees will have a number of workshops at the King Street Co-Lab to help them build their skills and network.
Erin Baca is a co-chair for Startup Weekend. She said they are looking for pretty much anyone who has an idea for a business or startup company to learn more about the process of succeeding in those endeavors.
“Almost all of the time, if you start a business or building a business, your head is kind of down and you’re working really hard,” Baca said, “and sometimes it’s good to lift your head up and engage with your community around you.”
Baca said there are many success stories that have come out of Startup Weekend as well as other places in Alaska.
One example of a recent entrepreneurial success would be Molly B’s in Anchorage, founded by Molly Blakeley.
Blakeley has been involved in a number of business ventures before Molly B’s. She said most of her experience comes from the bar and restaurant industry adding up to around 15 years.
Molly B’s is a gourmet, infused cookie business that started in an unlikely place according to Blakeley. She doesn’t sell them in a bakery, but sells them to individuals and businesses.
“It started as a taco truck, but everybody wanted something sweet so I started making cookies,” she said.
However, they aren’t just any old cookies. They’re infused with extracts that she originally made herself from liquor. Blakeley said she was inspired by a meme on Facebook of all things. She had recently sold a bar she owned in Soldatna when the idea for the cookies started forming.
“So I’m sitting there looking at the memes and one says, ‘vanilla extract is made with vodka,’ and I’m thinking, ‘I’ve got a garage full of booze right now,” she said.
So for a few days, she said she started researching everything she could about extracts made from liquor. Eventually learning how to make an extract out of every type of alcohol she had, she started baking unique cookies with them.
The extracts range from whiskey to tea and honey now. She combines them with a number of different flavors when baking the cookies. Blakeley has a recipe for all kinds of cookies from s’mores, to lavender infused, to maple and bacon flavored.
At first, she said it was just her hand mixing the batter and getting her 12 year old son to help out in the kitchen.
“We were doing like 40 boxes a day to the post office and doing all these things and restaurants and coffee shops and deli’s,” she said, “I turned to my son one day and said we had to do something, and he said, ‘I am so tired I do not want to scoop one more cookie,’ and I said me neither!”
Blakeley then sought out to get help baking the cookies. She said she found a co-packer in Oregon and when she came back to Anchorage she met Whitney Sutton, the owner of Illusions Food Company.
Sutton was already baking her own cookies in a successful operation, but since teaming up with Blakeley, she said they’ve gotten much busier.
“We actually have a person who’s pretty much focusing on Molly’s cookies. We may end up adding extra shifts and possibly more people,” Sutton said.
Now, Sutton bakes all of Molly B’s cookies for Alaska.
Since starting about a year ago, Blakeley said she’s been featured on Buzzfeed for being the number three of 24 best boxes of cookies to buy for Christmas time. She’s also been selected to be one of the top 150 start ups of 2019 by Forbes at their 30 under 30 Summit.
Blakeley said she wants to give back with her success. She said she’s chosen a non-profit called Beyond My Borders that works in stopping sex trafficking. Blakeley said since she’s started working with them, she’s donated enough money to have an entire family bought out from auction and avoid slavery.
All of this started because she had an idea and ran with it. Baca said that this success story reflects many of the things to do to be successful in local business and startup companies. She also said when entrepreneurs have good ideas, it results in a better Alaskan economy.
“The hardest part about starting up career and tech startups is starting up. You just have to start going after it,” Baca said, “people succeeding in the state is fundamentally good for everyone, but it goes beyond the financial returns and the economic returns. It’s also the community returns.”