Warm Hearts, Cool Crafts: Where Alaska’s Artisans Thrive
Alaska is known for a lot of things, such as breathtaking vistas, abundant wildlife, and the Midnight Sun. But Alaska also has a very rich and diverse culture of crafters – those individuals that can turn any item into a work of art.
Alaska is also known for short summers which come with lots of rain and wind, and long winters which make outdoor markets uncomfortable. This is why Yvette Courchaine became passionate about finding a solution to not only her problem of selling her handcrafted soaps and lotions all year round, but for all fellow vendors tired of having their tents blown away and their wares soaked by the rain.
“I make soap and other bath and body products,” states Yvette. “I have been working markets and shows around Anchorage for several years. I enjoy the markets, but I really wanted to find a space where I could sell my products throughout the year in a brick-and-mortar store with a thermostat.”
Yvette worked retail for over 20 years so she is no stranger to the pressure of retail sales and marketing products. But she found starting her own business more than she wanted to tackle on her own. That’s when she reached out to the Alaska SBDC in Anchorage for help, and was connected with her Business Advisor, Misty O’Connor.
“Even though I’ve worked in retail and other businesses for years, starting my own was daunting. My advisor, Misty O’Connor, has been fabulous. She helped with everything from the start-up costs and financial projections — what an awesome spreadsheet they provide — as well as providing information on financing options,” shared Yvette.
As Yvette and Misty met on a regular basis for several months, the framework and logistics of The Frozen Flamingo Market took shape. “Opening a store with only my soaps and body products was not realistic. In talking to other independent vendors at the shows, I came to realize that many of them were in the same predicament. Many crafters, artists, and small business people had full-time jobs and/or families making it even harder to find the time to grow their businesses. We needed an affordable space to enable us to grow. I decided it was a good time to give it a go and The Frozen Flamingo Market was born.”
One of the biggest obstacles the two faced was finding the perfect bricks-n-mortar building. It had to be in a high traffic area, but with a cultural demographic to attract the right buyers. The building also needed a large open space footprint on the inside and appealing storefront windows.
Working with a local Anchorage Tennant Agent, Yvette found the perfect location and building in Spenard to accommodate her indoor, open-floor concept market. The building has warehouse space that will allow Yvette to create extra income from renting out the additional space and to utilize the space in the future allowing the business to expand.
Having this final expense element, Misty and Yvette finalized the Financial Projections, and Yvette saw that her vision for an indoor market space was viable and profitable. Misty then introduced Yvette to lending sources where Yvette secured the financing she needed to open The Frozen Flamingo Market.
“Misty helped me develop my marketing plan, made suggestions for where to advertise, and held my hand when I had a little freak-out a few days before opening,” says Yvette with a laugh.
The Frozen Flamingo Market held its Open House on Saturday, September 23, 2023, with all vendors and the public warm and dry inside the thermostat-controlled space.
So how does Yvette’s indoor market work for vendors looking for a place to sell their wares year-round? Yvette explains, “The Frozen Flamingo Market gives crafters, artists, and small businesses an affordable way to grow. We rent space by the square foot so vendors can choose just how much space they can afford and their products are available for sale year-round.
We are open six days a week so shoppers have an easy time finding the vendors and items they want. The vendors are still able to work at shows and can direct their customers to The Frozen Flamingo Market to pick up items not available at the shows.”
When asked what the upcoming season and her business’ future holds, Yvette beams and says, “I’m very excited to start participating in the Spenard ‘Second Saturday’ events. Spenard is such a creative and eclectic part of Anchorage, and I see fun times ahead. I’ve been talking to some of the other neighborhood businesses and venues, and I hope to have some great events coming up in collaboration with them. This is just the beginning!”
Throughout the year, The Frozen Flamingo Market is a must stop for handcrafted and locally sourced one of a kind gifts. You will be supporting not only Yvette, but all those crafters and artisans that Yvette is so passionate about providing a warm indoor home to year-round.