Lost Shaker of Salt with Britni and Casey Siekaniec - Homer Alaska Podcast #29

This week we sit down with Britni and Casey Siekaniec, the husband and wife co-founders of Alaska Salt Co., to discuss the organic birth of the company, taking on Zac Brown as an investor, how they’ve grown so quickly in just three years, why they recently opened a new store in Anchorage, how they got together, and what makes them such a strong husband and wife team.

Introduction (0:51)

Events in Homer This Weekend (10:30)

Spoonful of Medicine with South Peninsula Hospital - Shay Hoffman (15:01)

Interview with Britni and Casey Siekaniec of Alaska Salt Co. (21:59)

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Interview Notes

  • What Alaska Salt Co. does: harvest sea salt out of Kachemak Bay and make artisan culinary and cosmetic products

  • How they came up with the idea to harvest Kachemak Bay salt when Casey was commercial fishing scraping salt off the windows day-after-day

  • Why harvesting salt is better than harvesting fish

  • Why Kachemak Bay has lower salinity than the open ocean

  • How much salt is in a gallon of sea water

  • How Alaska Salt Co. started organically after giving salt they harvested to friends as gifts

  • The first sale in Spring in 2017

  • Selling salt online, in-store, and wholesaling

  • The challenges of selling salt online

  • The challenges of selling Kachemak Bay sea salt in Anchorage versus on the spit

  • The difference between Morton’s table salt (highly refined 98% NaCl, anti-caking agents) and unrefined sea salt (92% NaCl, no extra agents)

  • Why they opened the Anchorage mall location: storage and logistics in Anchorage, consistent business, no more shows

  • Why their store in Anchorage has sprinkles on the floor

  • Why staffing is the biggest challenge in the Anchorage store

  • What Britni and Casey look for in employees: committed to long-term growth with the company

  • The story of how Zac Brown approached Britni to invest in Alaska Salt Co. when they shared a store with Salmon Sisters

  • Zac Brown: “I’mma pour some jet fuel on this fire”

  • How the Zac Brown Collective offers support, creativity, and expertise to Alaska Salt Co.’s branding and design

  • The challenges of branding and designing a large product line

  • The best-selling products at Alaska Salt Co.: The sampler six-pack (15% of sales in last 6 months) and original Spit Salt jars

  • How Britni spear-headed expanding the product line beyond culinary salt and into cosmetics

  • The challenges of creating shelf-stable, safe cosmetic products from all-natural ingredients

  • How they divide up responsibilities:

  • - Britni: packaging, branding, product management, HR

  • - Casey, production engineer, finance, payroll, taxes

  • How their opposite skillsets make them a good business team

  • How they are still innovating in producing salt

  • They are moving to a new location and rebuilding the production process

  • Company size: 5 staff in Homer, 4 in Anchorage

  • Why shipping and access to materials is the toughest part of manufacturing in Alaska

  • Running out of salt

  • The lessons they’ve learned to never run out of their top 5 best-selling, highest-margin products

  • Why they sell products from other local makers on their website

  • The convergence of trends of young entrepreneurs creating natural products from the land in Homer

  • How Alaska Salt Co. has created a symbiotic relationship with local peony farmers to take blown peonies to naturally dye their cosmetic products

  • Buying a product from Alaska Salt Co. is actually an investment in a lot of Homer businesses

  • How they use salt instead of micro-plastics as a scrub in their cosmetics

  • 90% plastic-free packaging

  • Renting out three rooms above the store as a side-hustle

  • Giving vacation renters shampoo and conditioner as a sales development tool

  • Britni and Casey have known each other for 7 years and been married for 4. They were setup by a mutual friend when she decided to stay for a winter after working for a summer

  • How commercial fishing taught them to work together

  • Why Casey got out of gillnetting in Cook Inlet

  • The story of the first $25,000 micro-loan Alaska Salt Co. received from the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District

  • How they stretched their startup money with sweat equity

  • How Homer’s fishing DNA contributes to its entrepreneurial spirit

  • Homer’s job market naturally provides a way for people to make their own way

  • Why Britni and Casey decided to make Homer home despite not being born here

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