Cold Spot Feeds, SBA's 2016 Small Business of the Year

In 1986, Connie Core-Dubay had her hands full with four young kids. She didn't want to send them to day care and couldn't afford it anyway. The family income was waning as the pipeline construction days were coming to a close and she was looking for something she could do from home while raising a family. After lots of thought and research she came up with the idea to sell feed specifically to dog mushers. Cold Spot Feeds was born! From a humble beginning selling dog food from the back of her station wagon, she listened to what the mushers needed and rose to the occasion adding harnesses, collar clips, and other mushing gear. This was the birth of one of the first suppliers geared expressly to dog mushers. Operating out of the same small bedroom where her son was born, the infant business grew, quickly overflowing into the garage. "It hit me one day when George Attla and Harry Southerland, both legendary dog mushers, were in my small room talking, and no one was taking care of these folks, what an opportunity!" Connie credits the business's success to finding a niche and then taking a risk at just the right time. In 1992 it was announced that a series of internationally sanctioned dogsled points races would be held in Alaska during the 1993 season.

The business took on its first loan, expanding out of the garage into a real storefront built on the family's property next to the existing operation in the house. The paint was still wet when the flood of mushers from around the world started arriving in Fairbanks. The gamble paid off in a significant way giving Cold Spot Feeds credibility and prestige amongst their peers. This exposure to more than 200 mushers from around the world had the wonderful ripple effect of a new sideline to their business--mail order. After returning home, many of the international mushers called back to Cold Spot Feeds for supplies, great products, good service, and knowledge that catered to their needs. 1997 would prove to test Connie's strength both as a person and as a business owner as unresolved conflicts forced her to buy out her partner and mentally and financially start all over. Stepping back to take a good look at her life and business situation

Connie did what she does best--analyze her business's strengths and weaknesses. She focused on setting up the internal systems that would bring the quickly growing business into the next century. In 1999, became a favorite bookmark for many customers around the world as the business was catapulted into the realm of e-commerce. Soon they were faced with another expansion problem as they once again outgrew their current space. In 2003, Cold Spot Feeds made another bold move, changing locations to a larger facility and diversifying into other pet supplies, serving the larger pet owning community along with dog mushers. The move was welcomed by both mushers and pet owners with open arms and open pockets. Connie has triumphed through adversity and though it was far from easy, she has built a successful business while raising a family. She is proud of this and is very generous of her time with other women seeking to get into business. Connie encourages all business owners, not just those getting started, to use the excellent resources available to them. The Small Business Development Center, one of the U.S. Small Business Administration's programs, "is an unlimited resource, they have a large spectrum of resources available for everyone, not just for new businesses. The SBDC has been great to use as a confidential sounding board for new ideas and problems." Attitude is everything, and Connie has the right one, saying: "I wake up every morning happy to go to work. The constant challenges and the uniqueness of the Alaskan people are challenging and rewarding. Until it's not, I'll keep working!" Connie Core-Dubay is the 2016 U.S. Small Business Administration’s Alaska Small Business Person of the Year. Cold Spot Feeds has grown from a spare bedroom to a more than 22,000 square foot storefront that employs 28 people, a trajectory that’s followed the popularity of mushing worldwide.

This article does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the SBA of any opinions, products, or services of any private individual or entity.