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Alaska flower farmer named ‘American Small Business Champion’

Flower farmer Rita Jo Shoultz, owner and managing partner at Alaska Perfect Peony in Homer, Alaska, has been named a winner of the 2018 American Small Business Championship, according to a news release. The Championship is hosted by SCORE, a network of volunteer expert business mentors, and is supported by Sam’s Club.

“We were really surprised and very honored,” said Shoultz in the release. “Cut flowers don’t always get a lot of recognition.”

RITA-JO-SHOULTZRita Jo Shoultz Shoultz, who is a member of the Certified American Grown Council, competed with a pool of more than 1,100 applicants and was selected as a champion through a combination of online voting and judging by a panel of small-business experts.

The application asked each entrepreneur to describe the unique aspects of their small business that have contributed to their success, their positive impact on the community and their plans to use the prizes to grow their business operations or revenue.

The first peony farm in Alaska, Alaska Perfect Peony ships fresh-cut peonies to 50 states and Canada. It helped spur growth of the peony and fresh-cut flower agriculture business on the lower Kenai Peninsula, with now about 25 producers.

In addition to running the farm, Shoultz has worked to have the city of Homer declared the “City of Peonies” and started Main Street Homer, a task force working to revitalize downtown Homer through economic and cultural development, historic preservation and advancement of the arts.

The “champion” designation nets Shoultz an all-expense-paid trip to Reno, NV, for a SCORE training and networking event. She will also compete for the chance to win one of three $15,000 grand prizes, which will be awarded at the SCORE Awards Gala on Sept. 13 outside of Washington, D.C..

Should she win, Shoultz said she’d use the funding for marketing efforts and to look into selling her peonies in Hong Kong and Singapore.