Written by Fran De Lancey on October 27, 2021
From left are McKean County commissioners Cliff Lane, Tom Kreiner and Carol Duffy, along with Tosha Conklin and Dave Conklin, owners of the PA Wilds Sonshine Factory, Taylor Holt, Sonshine Factory project manager, Abbi Peters from PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Kane Mayor Brandy Schimp, McKean County Planning director Richard Fry and Steve Dyne, Wetmore Township supervisor.
SMETHPORT — The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship has honored Dave Conklin, owner of The Wilds Sonshine Factory in Kane with its Best Brand Ambassador Award.
Abbi Peters, executive vice-president of the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, presented Conklin with a wooden plaque at the conclusion of the McKean County commissioners’ meeting Tuesday morning. Peters provided the background of the Best Brand Ambassador Award, saying, “It honors an organization or individual who has made significant contributions to promoting and developing the PA Wilds brand through logo use, place name recognition, branded product development, storytelling, event or experience, packaging or similar efforts.”
A limited spirits distillery, the Sonshine Factory uses sunflower seeds from the PA Wilds region in its trademarked product.
“The Wilds Sonshine Factory tied the patent for their innovative distilled product to the PA Wilds brand and through a licensing contract will be giving a portion of every bottle sold to support the PA Wilds Center’s nonprofit mission in the landscape,” Peters said.
“A true PA Wilds ambassador, Conklin has spoken about the importance of the PA Wilds on the radio and television, to elected officials, to other business people and on stage at Public Officials Day,” Peters noted.
While “Sonshine” is a distilled product, it is not a typical distillery, said Peters. “The building serve as an agricultural education center, combining efforts and partnerships from Allegheny Hardwoods Utilization Group, Penn State Outreach and Penn State Extension and the McKean, Elk and Warren County Conservation Districts.”
Kane Mayor Brandy Schimp nominated Conklin for this award.
Three elected officials sent government resolutions and a certificate to Conklin, recognizing his entrepreneurial efforts. U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson’s certificate recognizes “The Wilds Sonshine Factory for incorporating the PA Wilds brand directly into your business and supporting the PA Wilds Center’s nonprofit mission. Your efforts are recognized and appreciated.”
Zachary Ankeny, district director for State Sen. Cris Dush, R-Brookville,, presented Conklin with the resolution that recognizes him for producing a product that incorporates the PA Wilds brand directly into his business.
It concludes, “Through his many initiatives to benefit the community and by his personal example, Mr. Conklin clearly reflects the true spirit and mission of the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship.”
In the citation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Rep. Martin Causer, R-Turtlepoint, lauds Conklin for using “products that will be exclusively grown and produced within the PA Wilds Region” and for allowing his facility to be used as an agricultural education center.
In accepting the Best Brand Ambassador Award, Conklin thanked those people and agencies who have been very supportive of his venture, saying, “I am absolutely honored to receive this award.”
Conklin told The Era that construction of the factory should be done in April of 2022, with the doors open for business in May. “I’m confident this business will stimulate the local economy and tourism. Our plans are to initiate a sunflower festival.”
Besides the McKean County commissioners, these included the county conservation district and county planning office, PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Wetmore Township supervisors, Kane Mayor Brandy Schimp and Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding.