AIRSA won an award for Alaska Enterpreneur of the Year! This is the AIRSA President receiving the award from Governor Walker!!
Alaskan Entrepreneur of the Year Award
•Must be an Alaska resident that lives and works fulltime in Alaska year-round.
•Must be between the ages of 21 – 39.
•The nominee's organization needs to have been in business for at least one year prior to the nomination deadline.
•Nominee must be owner/manager primarily responsible for company’s recent performance
•Demonstrates innovation in business thinking
The “Alaskan Entrepreneur of the Year Award” is awarded to an Alaskan entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs are motivated individuals who identify a need and seek to fill it. They are among Alaska’s next generation of legacy builders. They are innovative, passionate, ambitious, and visionaries. Most importantly, recipients will have shown a growing impact with their business in their industry and/or community.
Scale and size are taken into account, as well as the quality of the nominations.
The Delta Discovery
May 2, 2012 The real news for the real people Volume 14, Issue 18
New venture wants to help rural village stores lower costs
Jake Hale, co-owner and founder of a new business based in Anchorage known as AIRSA, or the Alaska Independent Retailers Strategic Alliance provided the following information for the readers of The Delta Discovery:
What is AIRSA?
AIRSA, LLC was founded on the principal that every store no matter the size deserves a chance to compete on the same level with larger multi chain rural corporations. AIRSA is a buying alliance of independent stores that combine their buying power to lower the cost of goods for everyone. The sole goal of the company is to lower the prices of rural Alaskan groceries for the communities.
How was the business started?
In early 2011, Josef Lorenz and I were sitting at lunch discussing ways to improve our company’s sales when we looked at the problem from a different angle: What are the biggest problems facing rural retailers and how can we solve them? From that conversion, the idea of AIRSA was born. We spent the next ten months gathering information, market analysis, and client’s feedback to determine the best approach to take the business in. Initially, our plan was to sell the business concept into a large regional corporation and continue on in our career paths in the corporate world. After some initial meetings with some interested investors, we choose to open the business ourselves.
We have both lived and worked in rural Alaska and understand how difficult running a business in a village can be. We are no longer bound by a corporation to drive margin and prices higher to maximize profits. In fact, we take the opposite approach. We strive to bring you the lowest cost of goods we can find from anywhere that offers our alliance the best deals: no vendor favoritism, no backhanded deals. We want to help our members succeed and lower the costs to their villages.
How do you accomplish lower prices?
AIRSA delivers its discounts through a variety of programs. We offer Costco and Sams Club at zero markup, the Alaskan wholesale firms offer us discounts on all their products, direct vendors offer us special deals that we in turn offer our clients at no mark-up and we purchase direct buys that allow our clients access to prices that they could never alone procure. We even go as far as offering a money back guarantee on our quarterly membership charge if a store does not save a minimum of at least that amount. It is basically a risk free investment for independent stores.
What else does AIRSA do for its members?
On top of all the discounts, our members enjoy access to everyday services like shipping management, vendor management, and business consulting for being a part of AIRSA. We pride ourselves on being available to our clients any time of day, every day. Need invoices on a Saturday, no problem. Need us to run around town to pick up some special requests, no problem. Our job is to be available to our members.
The average savings for our members in April 2012 was over $5000. Some stores almost hit $8,000 because they order so much through us!
Are members liable for any of the debts the company accumulates?
Our membership is kind of like the membership clubs in that members are not responsible for any debt that we incur. Our membership contract specifically states that our members will never be liable for our debts. They’re not even required to be members if they want to leave the alliance. The only thing that will keep clients in the alliance is the services that we provide them are worth the membership fees. Customer service and satisfaction is our greatest assets.
How have the villages responded to your company?
Like all new ideas, there are retailers and corporations with vision that can see the positive affect that AIRSA will have on the communities. They have been the first to sign on and have been our biggest advocates. Then there are some native boards and accountants that tend to be hesitant at first because it seems too good to be true. They want to protect their corporations from being taken advantage of and rightly so as there have been corporations in the past that have promised the world and taken the villages for everything they could. It’s our job to show these boards that we are truly here to help our members. We offer trial memberships and money back guarantees simply to ease members into the AIRSA concept. We want our members to feel safe and proud being part of our organization.
How does a retailer become a member?
We have three rules for membership: To have prompt Accounts Payables, To use the AIRSA order procedures for tracking purposes, Open communication between parties.
If a company can meet these three criteria, we would love to have them on board! We encourage anyone interested in joining the alliance to contact current AIRSA members and get a feel for how they like our services. We are more than happy to come out and meet with native boards to answer any questions. Change can be scary but we offer many safeguards and protections that no other company would offer its members. We are truly here to help!