Couple become partners, parents and entrepreneurs
Casey and Britni Siekaniec open Alaska Salt Co.
Casey and Britni Siekaniec met in Homer in 2012, married in 2014 and welcomed their daughter in 2015. They are partners, parents and entrepreneurs.
Siekaniec's family moved to Homer when he was 14 years old.
"I'd been sport fishing since I was old enough to hold a pole," he said. "After reading Spike Walker's book "Working on the Edge," I became curious about the commercial fishing industry."
At 17, he began commercially fishing Cook Inlet as a deck hand for local fisherman, John Munns and then Wes Humberg.
"John got me hooked on fishing and Wes got me excited about fishing," Siekaniec shared.
With these years of experience under his belt, Siekaniec was eager to be his own captain.
"I really liked the idea of being the one to make the decisions," he said. "Being crew, you have to do whatever the captain says and it can be an adventure, but freedom and adventure really go to the captain."
In 2012, Siekaniec opened The Harvest Moon Fish Company. For the next five years, from June through August, he and his crew fished for salmon in upper Cook Inlet.
"Commercial fishing to me is more then just a job," he said. "It consumes so much time that it is a lifestyle as well as a career."
When mutual friends introduced Siekaniec to Britni Johnson, the couple immediately hit it off and spent the next three summers fishing together. They married in 2014 and in 2015, their daughter, Hadley, was born.
"Fishing is fun and there's not a lot I don't like, but it can be a struggle financially and the hardest part is being away from family for extended amounts of time," he said.
Siekaniec continued fishing in the summer months and worked the rest of the year as an electrician.
Johnson was born in Germany into an Air Force family and raised in Colorado. When she was 12-years-old, she visited an aunt who lived in Homer and fell in love with the community. When she was 18, she and a friend traveled to Homer, where they planned to stay for the summer. Johnson shared that as summer was coming to a close, she realized she was not ready to go home.
"That was a tough phone call, telling my parents I was staying in Alaska," she said.
In 2012, she met Siekaniec.
"I loved him instantly and we've been best friends ever since," she said.
Johnson and Siekaniec fished in the summers and the rest of the year, she worked at Haven House, coordinating their transitional housing program. When Hadley was born, Johnson quit fishing and became a stay at home mom.
"We tried daycare, but I just couldn't do it, not raise my daughter," she said.
For the past year, the couple has been harvesting salt from Kachemak Bay. Using their home kitchen and different methods of evaporation, they experimented until they figured out a method that yielded salt in a manner that they really liked.
"There's a company in Sitka doing this, but we saw that no one was doing this locally," Siekaniec shared.
What began as them creating salt products as Christmas gifts for family and friends has evolved into the creation of Alaska Salt Co.
"We're really excited about this salt thing and we hope that it has short and long term success for us," Siekaniec said.
They debuted their first Alaska Salt Co. products at a local vendor fair in Homer a few weeks ago, selling out. Now, they are working on a process to ensure that they can be both productive and energy efficient.
"We still have more experimenting to do, but I think we've got a great start going now," Siekaniec said.
Alaska Salt Company products will be available in Homer at the Salmon Sisters store on the Spit by the end of June. This summer, they will have Alder Smoked Sea Salt, Flaked Salt, "Spit Salt" - their basic salt, a variety of salt scrubs and sea salt hair spray. In the future, they have plans to add many more products, including flavored salts, soaps, facial masks and shampoos.
The couple created a Facebook page - Alaska Salt Co. where people can follow what they are producing and where they are selling it. Their short-term goals include keeping the Salmon Sisters store stocked all summer, developing a website and having their own store in Homer by next summer. Eventually, they would like to have stores all across Alaska.
Johnson shared that they both bring complimentary skills to the business.
"Casey is good at finding the most energy/cost efficient methods of harvesting the salt and has a degree in business, while I use my original artwork to design labels for marketable packaging and create the recipes for the different beauty products we're making," she said.
The couple recently bought a house and was planning to use the basement apartment as a vacation rental. Launching their Alaska Salt Co business, they plan to turn the apartment into their salt factory where they can work from home and raise their daughter together.