Location: Menomonee Falls
Founders: Juraj Kusnir and Adra Kusnirova
Product:Freshly caught Alaskan salmon from a small-boat fishery
Goal: Improve online presence and increase online sales
Experience: The couple collectively spent 17 fishing seasons in Alaska learning the trade.
Husband-and-wife duo Juraj Kusnir and Adra Kusnirova are taking the skills they learned during several fishing seasons spent in Port of Cordova, Alaska, to bring fresh salmon to the rest of the U.S.
Kusnir, a native of Slovakia, first went to Alaska in 2005 as a college student looking to take a summer job at a seafood processing plant. He worked his way up to become the general manager.
After Kusnir and Kusnirova met in 2011, they initially moved back to Slovakia, making trips back and forth to Alaska. Kusnir spent 13 fishing seasons in Alaska while Kusnirova was there for four. After a few years, they decided to start splitting their time between Wisconsin and Alaska, since Kusnirova is originally from Brookfield.
“At one point we decided enough is enough with this Alaska lifestyle, which was moving our lives from one place to another every six months. But after we moved to Wisconsin full-time, we began missing the lifestyle up there,” Kusnir said.
The couple decided to start selling fish to their friends and family. Alaska Fresh was officially created in early 2018, offering a single purchase or subscription service option. Kusnir and Kusnirova don’t personally catch the salmon but instead use a network of fishermen.
“We are really intimately related with our fishermen. This allows them to focus solely on the fishing component while we focus on the marketing component,” Kusnirova said.
Fishing in Alaska is more sustainable than fishing in other areas across the globe. People fishing for salmon in Alaska follow time restraints in certain areas. Kusnir said everything Alaska Fresh offers consumers is from a small-boat fishery. Alaska Fresh sells fish caught in the Copper River and the Prince William Sound fishing districts, and its salmon is exclusively copper river sockeye, which is known for having the most Omega 3 fatty acids.
To help scale their business, Kusnir and Kusnirova are taking part in the Scale Your Local Catch virtual accelerator, which helps 15 small seafood businesses across the U.S.
So far, the couple has learned more about running a small business, particularly in the areas of accounting, taxation and contracts. Once they complete the accelerator program, the couple hopes to use what they’ve learned to improve their online presence. Alaska Fresh products are available for purchase online via subscription or one-time purchase options.