Submitted & Approved by the Steering Committee of YES -
The feeling that the younger generation of Sewardites is not represented in our local politics and community boards is much of the reason for how YES was conceived. The idea for YES was born of a Chamber of Commerce meeting in the fall of 2012. During an economic development workshop, attendees were split into focus groups. The task of one of the focus groups, including Tom Tougas and Allen King, was to come up with ideas of how to get more people involved in Seward’s economic growth and promote the success of local business. During the meeting, the individuals in this particular focus group looked around and made a joint observation. Were younger people not interested in helping Seward grow? Or was there just no forum for them to voice their opinion because most of the committees and boards in Seward were full of an older generation? After the official meeting ended, they met up on their own and came up with the idea for YES. YES officially stands for the Young Entrepreneurs of Seward. (However, not all of us are necessarily young and not everyone has their own business).
That same week as the development workshop, the focus group members started looking around for younger individuals who might have their own businesses or had expressed interest in community involvement, and they called together a meeting of the minds. Many of us who went to the first meeting were drawn by a sense of curiosity and while there were many ideas of what people wanted to see in Seward, it was unclear as to what we were going to do with all these ideas.
We had a large group of individuals with ideas and opinions but weren’t sure exactly how to get everyone on the same page. After a few rounds of discussion, we finally came up with a mission statement for the group - To unify a collaboration of people to nurture and support and expand the ethical development of Seward through networking and education.
So to put it simply, YES is a group for people who want to get involved but aren’t sure how. It is a group for people with strong opinions and also a place for good listeners. We have fun discussions and the limited knowledge that many of us have as individuals comes together to help us all have better perspective and understanding of the opportunities in our small community. Sometimes we get things done and sometimes we just enjoy hanging out bouncing ideas around to see what sticks and what’s new. There is no requirement for meeting attendance or dues and we happily welcome anyone that stops by to check it out.
As a group, we are still trying to find our big purpose so that we can have a positive impact on the town we all call home. But until then, we focus on the small things, updating each other about Council, Chamber and community ongoings, as well as openings on different boards such as PACAB and Planing and Zoning or the Seward Community Foundation. There are plenty of great boards in town that support local business already in existence.
YES is interested in helping people start and maintain businesses if they need information or support. We would like to be an extra voice for local business owners when they feel that there needs to be a positive change in some direction and they request community support.
One of our projects that we want to work on more this year is a mentorship program. We hope to be able to connect experienced business people in the community with others who might be starting up in the same industry and could use some pointers or advice. We also hope to bring more educational business related classes to Seward such a QuickBooks training or more visits from the Kenai Peninsula’s Small Business Development Center to answer questions about setting up business licenses and filling out tax forms – the little things that can be overwhelming for people just starting up. The success of all our local businesses helps support our community on a social, ethical, and financial level.
We also enjoy having fun networking events where people can get together to meet other local business owners. It fosters a good relationship between individuals in the community and it’s nice to learn about some of the local business that you didn’t even know existed in Seward.
Additionally, we have also voted to take on the planning of an annual event, the Spring Break Up Festival, from the originators, Rick Brown of Adventure 60 North and the Seward Merchants Association. Spring is a great time of year to draw people down to Seward during a normally quiet, tourist-free time of year.
Though we might not have it all figured out just yet, we don’t view that as a negative thing. The inability to define exactly who we are and where we are going gives us the ability to be open to all kinds of discussion, suggestions and conversations.
Whether large or small, business in our town is good for the community overall. It helps support the existing businesses, provides jobs and income, and paves ways for new opportunities. YES wants to be a part of helping the younger generation of Sewardites affect the future of business for our community.
The next meeting for YES will be on Tuesday, Oct 29th from 6-8pm at the Breeze Inn Conference Room. Check our Facebook page for more info~ “YES Seward, Alaska”