Delana Green took home the $4,000 prize during Friday’s “Spark Soldotna,” a local competition modeled after the reality TV show “Shark Tank,” in which entrepreneurs pitch business ideas to a panel of potential investors.
Green said the funds will be used to create an online music education program that offers virtual lessons. The event was hosted by the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center at the Lone Moose Lodge in Soldotna and promised a cash prize that would help the winner build out their business.
Green was one of three finalists selected by a panel of judges to advance to Friday’s presentation round from a total applicant pool of 12.
In pitching her idea to expand “Delana Music,” Green highlighted a demand among parents for more affordable access to music lessons. She described herself as a performer and said she’s been teaching music lessons for 10 years.
Green said she would use the $4,000 prize to enhance her virtual learning portal, such as through the purchase of a website domain, dynamic virtual learning software and recording equipment, among other things. One of the business benefits to offering an online program, Green said, is that she is able to record lessons once and then sell them multiple times. She has visions of expanding both the skill level of courses currently offered, as well as courses in new skills like guitar and performing.
Currently, Green said music lessons in the central peninsula run between $30 and $35 for a half-hour, or between $120 and $140 per month. In contrast, Green said her online music program will cost $129 for a semester’s worth of 12 lessons.
“This opens up and reaches many families,” Green said.
Green said she will concentrate her early marketing efforts on people who have already reached out to her about online education programs, particularly moms between the ages of 25 and 35 who are looking for affordable music lessons for their children. She is already a vendor with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Connections Homeschool program and anticipates being able to connect with home-school families that way as well.
In selecting Green as the winner of Friday’s event, KDLL General Manager Jenny Neyman — one of the event “sharks” — said judges focused on which pitches would be able to put the prize funds to use immediately, though acknowledged all three had a solid business plan and ideas that were marketable.
“It was pretty tough to decide on just one presentation,” Neyman said. “The thing it came down to for us is which one of the three at this precise moment in time is really able to take the scholarship and, like, tomorrow take a step to get to a new level and achieve what they’re proposing.”
Other finalists who presented Friday included Matthew Crowe of Alaska Rod Co., a Soldotna company that designs and builds fishing rods, and Courtney Matiaco of Matia Co. Pottery, a company based out of Matiaco’s home that would have offered pottery classes for children and adults. Both were given memberships to the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.
Initial pitches were evaluated on several criteria including the project’s target market, the applicant’s business model, the project’s competition and competitive advantage and the team behind the project, according to contest guidelines from the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce. Businesses interested in participating had to have their primary operations within 50 miles of Soldotna city limits and could include everything from a new business, to a new online marketing strategy, to a new product.
Judges, or “sharks” included Neyman; retired Kenai Peninsula College Associate Professor of Business Steve Horn; Tim Jordan of Northern Tech Group; Director of the Kenai Peninsula Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy Jill Schaefer; and Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member and real estate investor Tyson Cox.