Imagine a world where you could get fresh salmon — and not just any salmon, but Copper River king salmon — delivered straight to your door. Thanks to a UCCS College of Business alum, we live in a world where that is possible. Kyle Lee, a native Alaskan, graduated from UCCS with a degree in finance. While pursuing his degree, Lee would take the summers to commercial fish. It was during this time he found his desire to make fresh fish available to everyone.
We caught up with him to learn more about what it’s like to own a sustainable fishing company and how UCCS helped shape his journey.
I am the founder and captain of Alaskan Salmon Company. I help people buy the same high-quality Alaskan seafood used by Michelin-starred chefs through our e-commerce platform.
I commercial fished during the summers, while I was attending UCCS. While I was at school I went to the store to buy some salmon and quickly realized the quality of salmon sold in stores was not the same as the quality when we were catching them. That's when I realized there was a disconnect in the market.
Where do I begin? Fishing in the most remote and beautiful areas all over Alaska, meeting and connecting with chefs and home cooks who are passionate about quality seafood and eating at amazing restaurants, of course.
During the salmon season, we will fish anywhere from 24-48 hours straight. While we are out fishing I will give live fishing updates to our chef partners as well as our marketing team. That way they have the most up-to-date info. While I am off the boat, my day starts the night before.
I will write out a list of my top priorities for the following day. I typically wake up at 7 a.m. to check emails and social media. Then host team meetings throughout the morning, checking in on our KPI's and see what can be improved.
I'll touch base with some of our partner chefs to see how we can help with an upcoming event or product launch. Once I am done working, I'll crush a workout to help give my brain a break and make a simple dinner. Usually some sort of seafood with rice!
I am proud of being a commercial fisherman. I got into commercial fishing and ran my own boat with only one year of experience. This is unheard of as most people are born into it and have a generational history of commercial fishing.
The lowest moment in my career was without a doubt when the COVID-19 pandemic started. We were a B2B business shipping seafood directly to Michelin restaurants and celebrity chefs all across the country. When the country went on lockdown, we lost 100% of our business overnight. So much was happening so fast — new rules and regulations were changing by the hour. It was really overwhelming being a small business owner with limited resources.
However, due to the fact that we were a digitally native seafood company, I was able to pivot the business very quickly. We pivoted to direct-to-consumer and I built a simple website to test the product-market fit and was met with fantastic feedback from consumers across the US. Within the first month, we accumulated thousands of subscribers and customers!
I had a few professors that had a massive impact on my life, professionally and personally. They help broaden my thought process from a direct approach to a more theoretical approach.
We will continue to build our platform to provide as much value to our customers as possible, with a strong emphasis in education and transparency.
Don't be afraid to fail. Whether it is a personal or professional endeavor — failure is the greatest teacher.
Find out what truly brings you joy and excitement (harder than most people think). Then find a career that supports a work/life balance that allows you to enjoy those things. Or if you have the ability to monetize doing what you love, then you'll never have to work a day in your life.
A lot of people say work is my personality. I actually really enjoy helping my friends with their businesses or ideas. So if any of you have any questions or would like to talk through an idea, I'm available. I also sit on the board of the Alaska Chinese Association.
I was invited to be on The Bachelorette.