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Bill Shaishnikoff, president: Bering Shai Roch & Gravel LLC.


Bill Shaishnikoff, as he tells it, pulled in his commercial fishing lines and traded riding the waves for manning a dump truck after almost losing his nine lives out on the Bering Sea. He started Bering Shai Construction in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor in 2004, and in 2011 changed the name to Bering Shai Rock & Gravel LLC. With wife Diane and their sons Steven and Blaine, he began clearing and developing their waterfront property and selling rock.

"Our first employees were our sons," he reflects. "They started with shovels in their hands, and are now proficient operators. They run our crushers, excavators, graders, dozers and dump trucks and are now our foremen." The firm today owns six dump trucks and has been busy leasing equipment for a major municipal repaving project, crushing 15,000 tons of hot rock.

MAKING A MARK: Having roots in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor and the Aleutians has helped. While breaking into the rock market here, we strove to be always on time and deliver more than expected. While DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) status under the Small Business Administration has provided opportunities, being so remote from most state projects has limited our participation. But we are strategically located to provide rock products in the region and in Western Alaska.

MANAGING EROSION: In the face of climate change, it has become clear that erosion is hurting coastal villages. Our quarry produces armor stone, rip rap and crushed rock products that can be loaded directly onto barges and delivered to hard-hit western coastal communities.

GROWING PAINS: They were severe. Banks generally don't lend to an upstart until there has been owner sweat equity of no less than two years. Our response was, okay, we'll see you then. We continued to build the business on our own, and pretty much own everything outright. Only our desire to be independent, never giving in to adversity, has gotten us through. Now the bank is far more willing to lend. While we appreciate this, it would have been nice in the beginning when we most needed it.

STAYING GROUNDED: Being so determined to succeed has taken a toll, so we strive to stop, relax and reflect. We have learned to live in faith and in the now, not in yesterday or amid anxieties about tomorrow. This realization has been primary in overcoming stress and our own high business expectations--that, and returning to our family and community events, which are most therapeutic.

BOTTOM LINE: Had we known more about upstart financing, things would have been easier. Knowing what I know now, I'd take my business idea and build a business plan with a professional plan writer. This tells the banker you are serious. The SBA not only helps in writing an acceptable plan, it offers low-interest loans that can be guaranteed. Another good source of financing in Alaska is the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI), as they favor startups.

ADVICE TO NEW VENTURES: Chart your own course and be willing to adjust, never veering from the main goal. Don't worry what they say; it is more important what you think.
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Title Annotation:View from the Top
Comment:Bill Shaishnikoff, president: Bering Shai Roch & Gravel LLC.(View from the Top)
Author:Stomierowski, Peg
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:Nov 1, 2012
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