MCED Blog

MCED helps innovators fill in the gaps between their deep industry expertise and the strategic business skills critical to launching a scalable, sustainable venture. Maine's unique economic and geographic challenges demand more that a traditional business incubator. They demand a catalyst.

5 Minutes with Don Gooding

Don Gooding, MCED's outgoing Executive Director shares on where-to-from-here for the start-up scene in Maine

Q. First of all, tell us what it is that inspires you to do what you do with entrepreneurs? Early influences?  

A. I’m a third generation entrepreneur, and a second generation entrepreneur helper. My grandfather founded an industrial roofing company in Lancaster Pennsylvania still run by my cousins. Before my dad did his startups, he was helping minority business owners through loan preparation and business training, at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. But my own inspiration comes from a strong belief that in the 21st century, the US (and Maine) economy has to rely on innovative entrepreneurship to sustain our standard of living. The collapse of communism paired with globalization means the US has to compete as never before. For my two daughters and their future kids to flourish, the US needs to be really good at helping innovative entrepreneurs. So I’m doing my part to help figure out what that means. 

Q. Maine is becoming known for its startup community ecosystem. What factors do you think have contributed to this?

A. First, Maine has an extraordinary quality of life that is attracting and retaining great people who want both to start a business and to raise a family, especially during prime startup ages of 30-40. Second, to pat ourselves on the backs, MCED through Top Gun and our other programs has built a community of high potential entrepreneurs and mentors who collectively have the “yes we can” attitude, and they are making it happen. Third, Sandra Stone and I led a revitalization of the Maine Angels that has helped fuel the “yes we can do it here” attitude. And finally, there are a number of other players who have contributed enormously, especially Jess Knox through Blackstone Accelerates Growth (and its absolutely critical $3 million of funding) and Maine Startup and Create Week, Maine Technology Institute, and the Portland chapter of SCORE led by Nancy Strojny. 

Q. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Maine's startup community?

A. First, the progress made towards breaking down provincial silos needs to continue. We have too few resources to hoard potential successes, and “it takes a village to raise a successful startup.” Second, we need to ensure the current enthusiasm for entrepreneurship in Maine doesn’t lead to political meddling or proliferation of half-baked “me-too” efforts.  This stuff is hard, with unobvious subtleties, and the mile-wide inch-deep approach will lead to failures as well as lost opportunities.  Third, there is a continuing global battle for top talent and Maine needs a more coherent approach to growing, attracting and retaining talent. “People people people” is the entrepreneurship equivalent to real estate’s “location location location.”

Q. If you could create a road map that would take Maine to the next level, what would be the stops be along the way?

A. We are now achieving one of those milestones I’ve been waiting for: big exits.
We need Maine’s most successful entrepreneurs to figure out thoughtful approaches to investing sustainably in both new companies and entrepreneur support infrastructure, to reduce dependence on state funding.  We also need big global companies to take notice of Maine, replicating our recent success with Microsoft and Top Gun a hundred-fold.  We need Maine to be a regular stop for a few Massachusetts venture capital firms. And we need smaller communities such as Lewiston-Auburn, Bangor, Rockland, Waterville, Brunswick, Saco-Biddeford and Farmington to stop the unproductive jealousy of Portland and instead create their own successes – something I’m calling an Entreplex. Fortunately great progress is being made on this last step. 
If you could have one wish granted, what would it be? (No fair saying two more wishes.) 
I would wish that all of the dreams of the many hundreds of great people I’ve had the pleasure of working with at MCED over the last five and a half years would come true.  (I hope that’s not cheating!)  
 

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Vision to Reality - Fork Food Lab

Fork Food Lab is a collaborative food maker space opening late summer in West Bayside. The project will mark the first food incubator in Maine, and the first incubator with an attached tasting room in the world. There are lots of stories that tie into how this came to be, but for now I will tell the “Cliff Notes” version.

When I was managing the Urban Farm Fermentory we had taken on an extra warehouse in our building that was used to rent out kitchen space to food entrepreneurs. I noticed that there was always a waiting list and that the potential to create a community around these food experiments was an untapped market.

First, I researched the hell out of shared kitchen space and what I know now to be the food incubator model. I met the founders of Union Kitchen in Washington DC thanks to Caroline Paras at GPCOG, and they turned into my consultants. Their wildly successful project provided proof of concept. There was still the question of whether it would be viable in Portland. I sat down with Jess Knox in December 2014 to tell him I seriously wanted to pursue this idea. He was evangelist #1.

At this point, I was still by myself, but I had written an impressive business plan and was starting to generate some buzz in the underground food scene. I recruited 12 board of advisor members that helped bring legitimacy to the project along with some great advice and connections  I also started working with an awesome mentor, SCORE chapter chair Nancy Strojny, who guided me through the process of leaving Urban Farm Fermentory to move into full-time fundraise mode for Fork.

A potential future member of the food lab that reached out to me was Eric Holstein who ran the Marshmallow Cart. He was looking for kitchen space for his food cart and wanted to meet. In preparing for the meeting, I looked at his extensive food and beverage consulting background on LinkedIn and knew the meeting would turn into the first of several co-founder interviews. He passed.

Next came the hardest test for Fork Food Lab, whether investors would buy into the plan, growing team, and vision. We pitched organizations such as the Maine Angels, Slow Money Maine, MTI, Maine Venture Fund, CEI. Plus I had about 100 coffees with individual angel investors. I had become a true hunter for the first time in my life.

We picked up steam on the fundraising front slowly and surely. The early investments were from people close to the project such as Eric, myself, and some members of the board. We were awarded a $100k grant from the USDA, which went a long way.  

Building out a kitchen is expensive, so although we had a decent chunk of equity and access to traditional bank financing, we still needed a big investor that glued together the whole package. One angel in particular, who I had been keeping in the loop since the beginning, finally engaged in a serious way and we were able to close out a round with him running lead.

Without a doubt, the key was to surround myself with other supportive entrepreneurs that dream big. I’m excited to be a part of all the startup success stories that will emerge out of Fork Food Lab in the coming years.

Neil Spillane
Co-Founder/CEO
Fork Food Lab

 

Neil Spillane, is founder of Forq Food Labs, and former CEO of Urban Farm Fermentory (UFF), a manufacturer of hard cider, kombucha, and mead in Portland. While helping to form the Bay 1 food hub where foodtrepreneurs could rent one of three kitchens monthly - he realized the strong need for a collaborative commercial kitchen space in Portland. Thus he created Fork Food Lab with the idea of having Portland build stronger community ties around food with a goal toward having the city recognized as a national leader in progressive local sustenance.

Neil's understanding of the food and beverage world started at 15 while washing dishes and cooking in Mid Coast Hospital's kitchen. He later worked summers for Pine State Trading, Maine's largest food and beverage distributor focusing on beer and wine merchandising. He  has a B.S. in Business Finance from the University of Maine Orono, an MBA from Quinnipiac University, and has passed level 1 of the Chartered Financial Analyst exam.

 

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Mentor Highlight - Sam Bishop

Sam Bishop

We are so pleased to feature Top Gun and Maine Mentor Network Mentor,  Sam Bishop. Sam has over 35 years assisting small and medium sized companies grow and prosper. Associated with Pace Consulting Group since 1978, he  assumed the position of Managing Principal in 1999. A professional in management consulting for over 25 years, Sam has served as interim CEO or COO of eight companies in the turnaround, start up, or growth mode. In addition, he has extensive consulting experience ranging from diagnostic evaluations to strategic planning, to financial restructuring. 

His extensive, hands-on experience with a diverse range of small and medium sized companies enable him to quickly evaluate situations and develop practical solutions. 

Earlier in his career Sam spent 17 years with a major Fortune 200 Corporation, advancing through production, product development, marketing and business planning to general management of an $80 million multinational division. He received his education at Harvard and currently lives on a yacht.
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Mentor Highlight - Manual Hernandez

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manuel Hernandez has been steadily involved as a mentor for the Maine Mentor Network and MCED community for over three years. He specializes in strategic leadership for the execution of top line organic growth through business development. He helps companies address issues in multi-channel marketing, business analytics, and risk mitigation both nationally and internationally.

Manuel is currently principal for consulting firm, Uptimizm, LLC which holds offices in New England and North Carolina. As a consulting leader for a top firm, he helped drive growth for several Fortune 500 companies. 

Manuel earned an MBA from Ross School of Business at The University of Michigan and an undergraduate degree in International Economics at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. 

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Top Gun 2016 Class Announced

Congratulations to the 29 companies selected from three regions to participate in Top Gun 2016. This year marks the second consecutive year that sessions will be held in three locations: Portland, Bangor and Rockland. The incredibly successful program, is designed to transform it's particpants from promising entrepreneurs into successful companies. The program has been running seven years, since 2009 and has graduated over 110 companies.

The selected entrepreneurs completed a rigorous application process that included submitting a pitch deck, presenting a pitch to a panel, interviews and participating in an optional PreFlight workshop series.

“This year’s Top Gun class truly represents the uniqueness and diversity of Maine’s startup community,” said Don Gooding, Executive Director for MCED, “Every year we draw an amazing group of companies who continually raise the bar in Maine.”

Top Gun is supported by Camden National Bank, Bangor Target Area Development Corporation and the Maine Technology Institute. Other corporate sponsors, local businesses, partner organizations, program advisors and mentors also contribute to the success of the program. Planning for the 2016 Top Gun Program was made possible by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) through its Growth Accelerator Fund Competition awarded to MCED in August of 2015.

MCED was also awarded an i6 Challenge Award through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) 2015 Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) Program, which is managed by EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The EDA award will continue to expand the Top Gun Rural Accelerator Network, which includes programs both before and after Top Gun. Next year, MCED plans to expand Top Gun to Lewiston-Auburn.

The following entrepreneurs have been selected to participate in each location:

Portland Class:

Ben Davis- True Course Yachting
Mike Mwenedata- Rawanda Bean Company
Kurt Shisler- FoodHEALTH
Joe Walsh- Green Clean Maine
Amanda O’Brien, Pete Dubuc- Eighteen Twenty
Alexandra Johnson, Dan Johnson- RoboJoe
Troy Locke, Rick Hollen- Spring Point Solutions
The Clothesline Club
Ryan Beaumont- Mobility Technologies
David Higham- Red Door Network
Mark Hews- Total Crowd Solutions

Bangor Class:

Ailish Keating- Botanical Brews & Happy Kids
Kasey Smith- Eternav
Elena Metzger- Print Bangor
Kelly McClymer- Kelly McClymer Books
Feras Elyounis- Half Auto
Simin Khosravani- Revolution Research Inc.
John Rasanen- Tips
Niles Parker- Science Around ME
Dan Steinke,Ted Morgan, Dave Pier- Dental Health Advantage Plan
Mandy Fountaine- Bar Harbor Catering Company

Rockland Class:

Sarah Baldwin- Bella Luna Toys
Juliana Hoffman- Tic Tac Taco
Claire Weinberg- Dulse & Rugosa
Jacinda Martinez- Grounded Local
Chuck Benton- TeamAR
Eric Jacobssen- Maine Classic Boats
Rhonda Nordstrom- Rheal Skin Care
Judy Bernier- Podzooks


The selected companies will meet in high-impact sessions in Portland, Bangor and Rockland. The classes convene weekly for networking, workshopping and mentor meetings over dinner. Sessions can include opportunities for pitch practice, presentations by experienced entrepreneurs, workshopping and lively discussions about such diverse topics as salesmanship, bootstrapping, hiring, firing and legal issues.

The program culminates with a showcase event in May. The event will feature a tradeshow in which all Top Gun companies will have a chance to showcase their business and 2 companies selected from each region will present before a panel of judges and an audience of 300 potential investors, business leaders, and the press.

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What Investors Wish Founders Knew or Understood

The relationship between the founder of a business and investors who back the founder in the early stages is complicated and can easily veer off course. While at first glance, one might expect that unforeseen setbacks for the business would be the most likely source of friction, that is not always the case. Most early-stage investors recognize that there are many factors outside the founder’s control and that there is always a material risk of failure.   Investors know this going in and generally size their investment accordingly. The worst that can happen is that they will lose their entire investment, and they are prepared for this eventuality.

Surprisingly, a more frequent source of friction derives from a degree of success.  Specifically, founders and investors sometimes fail to delineate in very clear terms the compensation that is being awarded to the founder as a result of their work, and what is deemed to be a return on investment. As a result, when the business begins to produce profits, the founder may seek to increase their compensation and the investors can feel like the founder is trying to “retrade” the original deal. An example may make this clearer.

Jim is desperate to launch a new business, but lacks the $300,000 necessary to buy equipment and fund necessary working capital. Jane agrees to make a $300,000 investment that must be repaid and will also receive a 33% interest in the equity of the business.   Jim’s salary is set at $75,000 and he gets to work.  Business is pretty good, and Jim finds that, after paying himself $75,000, he has a remaining profit of another $75,000. He begins repaying Jane’s $300,000 investment and after two years, he has paid it down to approximately $150,000. But Jim is straining to support his family on $75,000 and so he proposes increasing his salary to $100,000, reasoning that he will still be able to pay back Jane over time. 

In this case, Jim obviously felt that his $75,000 salary was a starting wage that he hoped would increase substantially if the business succeeded. In contrast, Jane may have expected Jim to increase his salary only with inflation, earning any additional compensation through his equity, in which of course she would share 33%. 

To complete the example, if Jim maintains his $75,000 salary, Jane will be paid off in two more years and then the $75,000 profit will be distributed $50,000 to Jim and $25,000 to Jane. In contrast, if Jim’s salary is increased to $100,000, it will take three more years to pay off Jane’s investment and, once it is repaid, there will only be $50,000 of remaining profit, which will be distributed $33,300 to Jim and $16,700 to Jane. The value of Jane’s long term equity interest is reduced by 33%.

The lesson is not that Jim’s request is unreasonable, it is that the full nature of Jim’s compensation for his work needs to be set out at the beginning so that the terms of the equity investment can fully reflect compensation costs over a range of expected outcomes. A more fully developed compensation plan might have included a base salary, specific guidance as to when and how much the salary would increase, and a bonus that related to profits, for example 10% of profits. This would have provided Jim a $75,000 salary that might have increased with inflation, and he would have earned a bonus of approximately $7,500 in each of the succeeding years.  Most importantly, Jim and Jane need to agree that this compensation package is reasonable and that, if necessary, another executive with similar skills could be attracted by this package to come perform the job at a similar level.

There will undoubtedly be some cases where the business simply doesn’t have the cash flow to pay the founder the full wage that would be required to pay a qualified outsider in the early years.  In such a case, the founder may decide that they are prepared to work for lower pay but should advise his or her investment partners of the compensation that should be provided once it is feasible. That way the investors can factor the higher pay into any investment return analysis that they may prepare.

Failure to establish a clear understanding of both short and longer term compensation expectations can be a point of friction between investors and founders. Open communication and reference to the standard of what would it take to attract a qualified third party to do the job can help provide clarity and lead to better alignment for all parties.

- Bob Gould, Executive Vice President, Principal and Vice Chairman of Spinnaker Trust

Spinnaker Trust is a Maine bank chartered as a non-depository trust company. Spinnaker specializes in investment planning, management, tax & estate planning, tax preparation, trustee services, and ESOP trustee services. 

MCED Sponsors understand the important role that our organization plays in supporting Maine entrepreneurs, providing ready access to the resources needed to launch and run successful companies in Maine. MCED thanks Spinnaker Trust for their support and sponsorship.

 

 

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5 Minutes with David Perloff
Q. In what ways do you think being an entrepreneur has influenced you as an investor?
 
A. I was fortunate to be able to found two successful venture backed Silicon Valley companies which, long after they became a part of larger companies, have continued to provide equipment for use in manufacturing the integrated circuit chips that are so pervasive in our lives. These tiny silicon chips provide the memory, logic and communications capability that we rely on in our cars, computers and televisions.
 
Both of my startups required a blend of individuals with technical, sales, marketing and manufacturing expertise working as a close knit team to successfully operate in a fast changing global customer environment. As an investor, I look for companies that not only have a great idea and potential for market success, but which are capable of developing and supplying products to a market that typically extends far beyond their place of business.
 
Q. What is something you wish all founders understood about the way investors look at deals?
 
A. I focus on early stage companies that have or will soon have substantial market traction and whose founders have an innate sense of how to build and manage their business. In today’s world, startups must quickly scale their businesses, which means the startup team referenced earlier has to have a focus on products and services which solve customer needs.
 
It is critical that founders be market driven, spend much of their time meeting customers and understanding their needs, enjoy working in a competitive environment and above all are capable of closing orders.  In addition, founders must be able to rapidly pivot and refine their business model in the face of both known and unanticipated competitors. That said, frequent pivots can be costly and time consuming, and are likely to cause investors to lose confidence in the founding team’s ability to achieve success. 
 
Q. What could Maine learn from Silicon Valley and what could Silicon Valley learn from Maine?
 
A. My wife and I maintain homes in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern Maine. Both regions have a commitment to innovation and building companies that address customer needs. Silicon Valley startups typically draw on people with prior business experience or who have worked for larger companies where they’ve had experience developing and bringing one or more products to market. Maine startups typically involve first time entrepreneurs who are not experienced in the demands of building a company and, in particular, the necessity of being “all-in” and working incredibly long hours. That said, Mainers have a greater sense of fairness, are excellent at building lasting relationships and have a strong commitment to personally supporting their customers.
 
Q. Your foundation, The Perloff Family Foundation, funds many STEM and STEAM initiatives, why is this so important to you? 
 
A. My wife and I were extremely fortunate to be able to attend public schools that “worked” and to have access to higher education opportunities that launched our careers without the burden of the student debt that is so prevalent today. After a successful merger of our first company, we decided to direct our philanthropic efforts into K-12 education, which led to our establishing the Perloff Family Foundation. We explored grant making options in California, Philadelphia and Maine, and quickly concluded that it was far easier and more rewarding to pursue these efforts in Maine.
 
Since the inception of our grant making in 1999, we’ve awarded more than $1.5M to schools small and large across the state of Maine. Along the way we’ve developed an approach that I like to think of as venture philanthropy in which teachers identify exceptional learning opportunities for their students, and address those needs by meeting clearly defined objectives. In addition to the funding we provide, we visit every one of our grant recipients at least twice during the school year, doing everything possible to encourage successful outcomes.
 
Our grants have been directed to all areas of education, from archery to theater residencies to Orff instruments. That said, STEM and STEAM grants have become an area of increasing focus for us because of the critical need for scientists, engineers and technicians to grow Maine’s economy and assure future career opportunities for its students. We have major initiatives in the area of classroom maker spaces that incorporate robotics and 3D printers, and this year we will be awarding up to five scholarship grants to graduating high school female students who have exceptional career potential in the areas of STEM and STEAM.
 
Q. What led you to study Physics and would you do it all over again?
 
A. I found physics of interest because of its emphasis on using mathematics and modeling to understand and address phenomena whose commercial value may not yet be fully known or understood. I quickly discovered that I really liked to solve problems that were cross cutting and blended science, technology, engineering and math in a creative way, but with an emphasis on shorter term R&D that could be carried out by small teams without government funding or support. Eventually, that interest led to developing methodologies and techniques which are now widely used in the semiconductor industry for maximizing production output and assuring optimal chip performance. So yes, I would definitely choose Physics again and am pleased that our granddaughter has chosen to study Astrophysics at Harvey Mudd College, but of course I cannot claim credit for her decision to do so. 
 
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Special Valentine Gift Guide for Maine Lovers

No matter who you love we have a unique gift for them here - from decadent chocolate and wine, to your very own windmill for that romantic windswept look! (We even have gifts for beloved's with four paws!)  

Adventurous Joe Coffee - Get your sweetie buzzed  with worthy coffee and coffee gear.
Armaid - They will love you for solving their tendonitis pain. 
Artascope - Craft a valentine!
Atayne - Love the environmental enthusiast in your life with friendly athletic wear.
Bella Luna Toys  - Waldorf, wooden and natural toys to nourish a loving imagination.
Bitzy Baby - Safe baby bumpers (in case things get really serious).
Bixby Bar - Organic, Healthy Chocolate bars for health conscious lovers.
Black Dinah Chocolates - Artisan chocolates - OMIGOD!  
Black Lobster Academy - Online art workshops - draw your heart out.
Buoy Local - One Card access to the heart of Portland, Maine.
Chimani - Apps for the outdoors (surely you can figure out something to do out there...).
Darn Good Yarn - Not your Grandma's Yarn! (Sweater material for when you can't be home at night.)
Downeast Dayboat - Fresh Maine scallops delivered within 24 hours (Roadmaps to the heart always include a detour through the stomach.)
Dulse & Rugosa - Nourishing bath & body products inspired by the Maine Islands. (Think warm baths and bubbles).
Earth Angel Arts - Paintings by Amanda Clark - For the angel in your life.
Eepybird - Grab one of their great books - love and laughter go naturally together!
Flowfold - Conscientious outdoor gear for your special hiking companion.  
Garbage to Garden - Show you care about the world they live in with a curbside recycling subscription! 
Gold Star Honeybees - Natural top bar hive beekeeping equipment/classes (Hint, bees make honey, Honey!) 
Loohoo Wool Dryer Balls - The natural way to keep your sweetie warm & dry. 
Lulu's Garden - Natural body care products to soften the skin and scent the heart.
Maine Foodie Tours - Gift Certificates. Once again, you cannot go wrong with food and love.  
Maine Gold - Premium Maine Maple Products and Gift Baskets romance the sweet tooth.
Maine Mead Works - For connoisseurs of the oldest fermented beverage. Light a candle, pour two glasses, put on some renaissance music and stare romantically into each other's eyes.
Maine Medicinals - All natural homeopathic medicines keep your love healthy all year round.
Finest Kind Tea - Mixers and modifiers. Tea for two...  
Mutt Nose Best - Natural Pet products - just in case your one and only has four paws.
Neu Naturals - Yummy snacks to feed thier inner awesome!
Northern Girl - Bounty from the county for your Maine sweetheart.
Oats Any Time - Fruit filled crumb tarts- Maybe even better than chocolate! 
Positive Raw Power - Raw food classes nourish the inner fires.
Pika Energy - Residential wind turbines - For that romantic windswept look!
Rheal Day Spa - Give your honey a spa day - You CANNOT GO WRONG with this.
LulaWed - Take advantage of the day to plan a wedding in 2016!
Seawicks Candle Company - Research shows that 100% Soy candles and poetry melt hearts. 
The Sunrise Guide - Local coupon book for environmentally conscientious lovers on a budget. 
Turtle Love Co.- Artisan jewelery (we suggest diamonds...)
Twenty 2 Vodka -Chill some of this handcrafted, small batch vodka, add red cranberry juice and enjoy! 
Urban Farm Fermentory - Honestly, what could be sexier than Kombucha??

 

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5 Minutes with Greg DuFour of Camden National Bank
It takes a steady hand and vision to accomplish all that Greg DuFour and Camden National Bank brought about in 2015. The bank completed a merger with The Bank of Maine, (which was acquired by Camden’s parent company, Camden National Corporation) in October, and unrolled a new look and new logo. Based on its commitment to community and volume of loans, the bank was named (for the sixth year in a row!) “Financial Institution of the Year” by the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) and donated  a total of $20,000 to more than 30 homeless shelters across the state to help raise awareness around the issue of homelessness in Maine.
 
Amidst all of that the bank stepped up to a lead position as the Portland Regional Sponsor of the Top Gun program, donating $30,000 to support the program over the next three years starting in 2016. (Yay Camden!)
 
Given all of this, we naturally wanted to sit down and have a chat with Camden’s CEO and President, Greg DuFour about how enterpreneurs will benefit from the changes and and what a founder needs to think about when looking for financing.
 
Q. Camden expanded a great deal in 2015 with its acquisition of The Bank of Maine bringing it into more communities across the state. In what ways have you seen that benefit Maine Entrepreneurs? 

A. I’m excited about how our acquisition of The Bank of Maine will help Maine entrepreneurs and innovators turn inspiration into thriving businesses. Part of our strategic focus is to deepen our already strong commitment to Maine’s businesses. The acquisition allows us to leverage our combined resources to serve more businesses through expanded locations and greater resources. More importantly, we recognize we need to continuously develop new products and services for businesses, especially entrepreneurs who provide the spark to Maine’s economy. This will result in developing systems, processes and training our staff to help make access to capital easier and more convenient to entrepreneurs, helping with cash management related services and, equally as important, to have knowledgeable bankers in our local markets who can serve as financial partners. In many ways, financial institutions need to grow in order to keep pace with the demands of entrepreneurs but also keep in mind the best products and services have to be delivered locally through experienced people.


Q. What does a Maine business that you want to work with look like?

A. We seek to work with all types of businesses in all industries in Maine. I believe one of our economic strengths in Maine is that we have a very broad and diverse business base so at Camden National we take a very inclusive view of who we like working with. We work with some very successful, large organizations that have national and international reputations while, at the same time, we work with others that may be focused on serving people right in their community. Some have been owned by the same family for multiple generations while others are start-ups. In all cases, we look for commitment, passion and a positive attitude in the people we do business with.

Q. What is the most important thing about Camden National Bank that most people do not know that they should?

A. Camden National Bank is firmly rooted here in Maine, with a 140-year history of local decision-making and personal one-on-one service. We pride ourselves on knowing our customers – but also knowing the latest trends and opportunities in banking and business. We’re local and we have a lot more in common with small businesses than we do with big business.  While we do have over 65 locations now in three States and $3.7 billion of assets, in the financial world we are still considered a small company. Like a lot of small businesses, we can still trace our roots back to our founding by six people in the backroom of the Five and Dime in Camden, and we’re proud of those humble beginnings. Because of this we share many of the same challenges and worries as some of our smallest business customers. I feel this helps us understand our customers when they come in for help or to share their own successes.

Q. What are some of the best ways for entrepreneurs to approach a bank?

A. Two things an entrepreneur should remember about a bank is we’re dealing with other people’s money and we’re risk managers. Our source for lending money are deposits from our customers, debt that we’ll also take on as well as our own capital. We look at things in terms of risk and reward, and because we have a fiduciary and regulatory duty to protect depositors, we need to understand what risks we’re taking and balance those against the rewards. What this means for an entrepreneur is the better we understand your business and strategies, the easier it is for us to make decisions and design a lending program that is right for your business.  

A well thought out and detailed business plan allows us to understand not only your business but also the associated risks. It also lets us start to think in terms of how we can help --- become a partner --- versus just a transaction. Part of that plan, especially for entrepreneurs is to understand what you want. Just the question of understanding do you want to maintain total ownership and control of your business versus seeking partners will help determine various funding and capital options for you. 

Additionally, we understand there are a variety of loan programs available to entrepreneurs. We help them navigate through guarantee programs from organizations such as the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Finance Authority of Maine (FAME). As a lending partner, these type of programs helps us mitigate risk and be able to say yes more often which helps more borrowers get the financing they need.

Remember the typical banker has helped many businesses and they too are great resources to help you develop a strong business plan.

Q. What surprises you most about your job?    

A. I’m constantly surprised by how my position with Camden National Bank lets me help people. Within a course of a week, I may discuss financing with a customer to help their business grow, meet with one of our wealth managers and a customer as they decide how to invest proceeds of a sale of a family business, discuss career development options with an employee and then attend a board meeting of a community organization. I’m allowed this diverse opportunity because we have the financial strength and banking acumen to take our customers, employees, commercial clients and communities anywhere they need to go. 

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Michael Royer on The Best Advice He Ever Received

If you want to succeed in business, you have to learn from those who came before you. For the past 30 years, I have owned and operated my own professional services firm. I started in a one-room office with just myself. Now I own a 20-person company, which has been selected twice as one of the 25 Best Places to Work in Maine, and is recognized as one of the leading accounting firms in Maine. Over the years, I have talked with and listened to many people – clients, entrepreneurs, attorneys, bankers, consultants, you name it. The following are the four most useful pieces of advice that I learned from some of the best in business.

4 Tips to Succeed as a Business Leader:

1) When I was a young man still finding my professional foothold, I was given important advice. It was this: My very best thinking had gotten me to where I was. However, if I wanted to be successful, I could not rely only on my own thinking. I had to ask questions and be able to take—and actually listen to—advice from others. This included looking beyond my own assumptions to “get it right” as opposed to “being right.” ?

Bottom line: Ask questions and learn from others’ experience. You can’t do it on your own.

2) Leadership depends on three characteristics: Appreciation, respect, and trust. Sure, you can be the head of an organization based solely on ownership or position. But if you want people to follow you, work hard for you, and care about your business, you need to put them first.
Appreciation: Employees want to feel the work they put in day in and day out is valued. If you do not or cannot appreciate what they are doing for you, find someone or something that you can appreciate. Ensure your employees know you appreciate them by telling them every chance you get.
Respect: It takes respect to get respect. Treat every employee with the same level of respect. Respect their ideas, opinions, and contribution to the company. Demonstrate respect for your clients and business associates as well. Mutually respectful relationships with your business associates and peers builds a stronger respect from your employees.
Trust: Trust is a two-way street and, simply put, if you cannot trust your employees, then why do you keep them? And if your employees do not trust you, then they will not follow you, or stay long term.

Bottom-line: Appreciation, respect, and trust will take you far as a business leader. Don’t forget them!

3) Don’t jump to conclusions or make assumptions about how others will react to certain situations. I have spent countless hours debating the best solution for many different situations, decisions, and actions, only to find myself held back by my assumptions of how the opposite party will react. Instead of acting on some of my ideas, I hesitated in fear of the unknown, only to find out that I was completely wrong. Do not be afraid of what you do not want to hear. The risk of not acting because of an incorrect assumption is much greater, and potentially more costly, than the repercussions of an adverse reaction.

Bottom-line: Don’t assume what other people think, talk to them and ask them what they think.

4) Find people who will “stick.” Investing in your team can deliver the best ROI for your business, but only if they stick. You need to find people who can commit to you and your company. Hire people who are loyal, reliable, and a good cultural fit for your business. Take the time to carefully vet candidates to make the best decision possible. Losing someone after you have invested in them, and they are fully functioning and trained, can be one the most disruptive and costly things that can happen to your business.

Bottom-line: Choose your investments wisely—especially your investments in people.


At the end of the day, business is still about relationships. The four pieces of advice above have helped me to not only attract, but also retain great employees and great clients. One last suggestion for improving your leadership skills and succeeding in business: Be friendly, smile, control your anger and frustration, and actively manage your stress. Owning a business is very rewarding, but also at times very difficult, stressful, and frustrating. Your energy and attitude will become your company’s energy and attitude. Make sure it’s a winning combination.

- Michael Royer, President, Barry Talbot Royer, Certified Public Accountants and Business Advisors

Mike 

 

 

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MCED Featured Mentor - Terry Johnson

Terry Johnson

Always ready to help when and where he can, Terry Johnson has quickly become a part of the MCED community. Johnson came to us with a broad background in project management and work-flow improvement activities. He specializes in project management, and is ready to mentor MCED clients in collaboration and process improvement across the organization to help them ensure new and enhanced business opportunities and value-added improvements for new levels of profitability.

Johnson is a Product and Technology Development professional with experience in all aspects of the development process who uses knowledge of processes and systems to drive improved product selection, execution, and introduction - leading to increased business opportunities and customer satisfaction.

 

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Libra Future Fund offering free office co-working space

Libra Future Fund is now offering free office/co-working space to Maine startups for terms of up to one year. Located at the Pineland Farms campus in New Gloucester, Maine, the Pineland Venture Hub combines the natural surroundings of working farms and forests with a modern campus. FMI click here

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Trade show exhibitors take note!

On Friday and Saturday, January 8th and 9th, Maine companies that exhibit at trade shows will have an opportunity polish their game with two seminars sponsored by the Maine Small Business Development Centers: Developing Sales Materials for Trade Shows and Trade Show Success with Bruce Baker.

Developing Sales Materials for Trade Shows on Friday evening is designed to prepare wholesale exhibitors for the New England Made Giftware & Specialty Food Show. Steve Lovejoy will present on how to use the creative process, descriptive language, graphics and photography to help increase the power of the trade show experience.

On Saturday, Trade Show Success with Bruce Baker will be an all day event where business owners can learn everything they need to know to make their next trade show a success. Topics will include creating trade show booths that sell, proven ideas for booth displays and more.

For more information click here

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Create your best Top Gun application by scheduling a PreFlight session today

The deadline for submitting Top Gun applications is fast approaching on January 22nd. If you or someone you know is interested in the program, but have not yet compiled your application materials, sign up for a Top Gun PreFlight session today.

Top Gun PreFlight is a series of trainings designed to help companies create their best Top Gun Application. The program is conducted in one to one and half hour classes focused on creating:
• the Business Model Canvas (required for the application)
• Pitching Basics (focused on creating a pitch deck to be presented with the application)
• Mentoring (Twenty minute session offered to help companies identify their needs and refine their vision and/or pitch. 

Top Tun PreFlight is open to anyone interested in sharpening their game whether they plan to submit to the Top Gun program or not. 

Top Gun Maine is the competitive accelerator program that has been helping Maine’s most promising early stage, scalable, innovation-based businesses launch strong and lasting Maine businesses since 2009. The highly-selective program accepts 30 to 35 companies statewide, distributed amongst three locations: Portland, Bangor and the Midcoast.

Top Gun 2016 will run weekly from February 27th through June 9th this year, culminating in a showcase pitch off event in June in which two entrepreneurs selected from each location deliver their pitches to a question and answer panel of judges.  The event takes place before an audience of over 300 potential investors, business leaders, and journalists.

Past participants in the Top Gun Program have included Pika energy, Rapport.io, Liquid Wireless, and Chimani.

To sign up for a PreFlight session in your area click on a link below

Portland    Bangor     Midcoast

To apply for the Top Gun program, fill out an inquiry form here and to receive an application and instructions. 

Anyone with questions about the program or how to apply should contact info@mced.biz or call MCED directly at 207-774-8111.

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Mentor Highlight - Peter Klein

Peter Klein

Peter Klein is a relative newcomer to the Maine Mentor Network, bringing with him 25 years of experience as a CEO both in the states and abroad. He offers his expertise as a business generalist, founder, and fund raiser, with industry knowledge in healthcare/biotech/medical,  manufacturing, partnerships/alliances, strategic marketing and human resources to Maine companies looking to grow.

Among his many accomplishments Peter has:

- Started a company and grown it to over 200 employees
- Acquired 8 companies in the USA & Europe
- Sold 3 companies
- Raised over $80 million for 3 different companies
- Delivered significant return on investment to shareholders in 7 years
- Taken a company public and rang the bell at AMEX!

Peter's passion is strategy, marketing and acquisitions and his goal now is to share his experience with other CEO's and business owners to help them grow their businesses. MCED is pleased to place Peter on the roster of the Maine Mentor Network  whose mission is to connect promising Maine companies with mentors who specialize in the expertise they most need to help them grow. 

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5 Minutes with John Rooks of Rapport.io

Rapport.io is early stage SaaS company that is working to transform the way companies report on and improve their sustainability performance. The group walked away with top cash prizes at two major pitching events over the past year: the Top Gun Showcase, and Steve Case's Rise of the Rest. 

John is the author of the book More Than Promote - A Monkeywrencher's Guide to Authentic Marketing and is a frequent writer and speaker on the intersection of Language, Culture and Sustainability. 

Having taught at the graduate degree level, worked on environmental compliance with the Department of Defense and consulted to Fortune 500 companies, John easily blends theory and practice into fun and digestible nuggets of information. We posted some questions to him on what motivates him, what he wishes he had known, and (I had to ask...) how Top Gun program helped the company achieve their success


Q: What ignited the spark to start Rapport.io? How did the idea for your business come about?

A: For 14 years I ran a consulting firm helping companies understand and improve their environmental and social impact. I started that company because I was passionate about the planet and worried about the impact “normal” businesses have on it. A few years ago I realized that to counteract the massive negative impact, an equal and opposite positive impact would be required. I trust the science that ecosystem collapse is happening and time is running out. My clients, primarily large businesses, were focused on sustainability, but the other 99% of businesses didn’t have access to the tools. I saw an opportunity to scale the impact of the 99%. So we built Rapport as an opportunity to, as Steve Case said, “change the world on a global scale.”

Q: Looking back, what was the biggest thing "you didn't know that you didn't know" when you started out?

A: We didn’t know how robust and supportive the start-up ecosystem in Maine was. We were pretty insular in our thinking. That could have been a huge missed opportunity for us. TopGun was our first eye-opening experience in this regard. We were exposed to so many mentors and other great businesses that it become quickly obvious that we needed to take from and give back to that community.

Q: Where did your organization's funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it?

A: First money came from our own personal accounts, and friends and family who believed in the concept but didn’t require hard proof. Next, it was winning TopGun, then it was winning Rise of the Rest, from there we have had several follow-on equity investors. This has all been supported by a suite of grants and development loans from the Maine Technology Institute. Momentum is king, so communicating and building off “just previous” successes is a good strategy.

Q: What made you decide to apply for Top Gun and how did the program help you? 

A: We heard from a lot of people that Top Gun was a great springboard for start-ups. It was hard to ignore the advice, although we almost did. Like any start-up, time was short and we needed to make hard decisions about our priorities. Top Gun almost didn’t make the list. We knew that if we were going to participate, we had to go all in to the best of our ability. Eventually, we decided that one thing that was lacking from our business strategy was a broader community of start-ups with which to share ideas. We went into Top Gun with that as a goal.

Q: Rapport has been very successful and you've won some high profile pitch competitions. What changes have occurred in your life as a result of those successes?

A: We’ve been able to move from “Rapport as Concept” to “Rapport as Project” to “Rapport as Business.” We’ve moved into new larger office, hired two additional employees and have enough gas in the tank (funding) to super-charge the business and make our first run at scaling the business. 2015 was about building capacity. 2016 is about acceleration.

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Twenty 2 Vodka joins with small Maine distillers form Maine Distiller’s Guild, Kick-off Party December 7th

 

Top Gun 2014 Graduate Twenty 2 Vodka and other small Maine distillers have joined together to form a Maine Distiller’s Guild. The Guild is holding a pre-launch kick off party on Monday, December 7th from 5-9pm at Liquid Riot on Commercial Street in Portland.  There will be 11 different small distillers from all around Maine on hand with samples of their spirits. Members of the local chapter of the US Bartenders Guild will be behind the bar mixing cocktails with members products. This is a great event for anyone looking to sample and learn more about Maine made spirits, just in time for the Christmas party rush!  FMI click here

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MCED Mentor of the Month - Michael Royer
Michael Royer
 
 

MCED December Mentor of the month is...

Mike Royer

A large part of what makes MCED and Top Gun Maine so successful is the generosity and talent of the many mentors who donate their time to work with our entrepreneurs. Every month we highlight the expertise and contributions of one of our mentors.  This month we are happy to honor Mike Royer.

Mike Royer is the President and CEO or Barry Talbot and Royer and has been a Top Gun Mentor since 2010. He brings over 25 years of experience working with companies during all phases of their growth cycle. His strong entrepreneurial and creative problem solving perspective has helped Top Gun companies navigate intelligent, planned growth and pivots. He holds a Master of Science in Taxation Degree from Bentley College, Waltham, Massachusetts, and a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas.
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Goldstar Honeybees presents at World Biodiversity Conference

Gold Star Honeybees logo

Top Gun 2012 graduate Christy Hamenway, founder of Goldstar Honeybees, presented at the World Biodiversity Association in Italy this month, about natural beekeeping in top bar hives - the subject of her first book (recently translated into Italian) The Thinking Beekeeper. While there, she conducted research with italian beekeepers for her upcoming book about the effects of neonicotinoid presticides on bee populations. 

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Vital Text to begin uptake trials

Vital Text logo

 

 

 

 

Top Gun 2012 graduate and former MCED client Vital Text will begin trials of uptake in January 2016 through a selection of small (less than 10,000) market segments through “masked” websites and targeted campaigns. 

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Chimani partners with Google








Top Gun 2012 graduate Chimani has been selected as one of nine launch partners for Google's new App First Indexing technology, which allows in-app content to appear in Google search results.
Read the Portland Press Herald article here.

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Bixby & Co Good Food Award Finalist

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Gun 2014 Graduate Bixby & Co. Nutty For You Bixby Bar named 2015 Good Food Award finalist in the confectionery category.

Bixby Bars (Top Gun 2014) Nutty for You flavor was selected amongst 1937 entries in a blind tasting with 182 judges as a Good Food Award finalist. The award represents the forefront of American craft food, making products that are delicious, respectful of the environment, and connected to communities and cultural traditions.

Nutty For You—organic dark chocolate + crunchy peanut butter + Maine sea salt is made with organic, Rainforest Alliance certified chocolate that is ethically sourced, is gluten free, Non GMO Project certified and vegan.

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Allergy Amulet adds researchers, collaborates with MIT and wins recognition

Top Gun graduate 2015 Allergy Amulet has added two researchers to their team: Jason Stanwick who is currently pursuing an MBA at Harvard Business School and is a licensed professional engineer with a Master’s degree in medical device design, and Micah Maetani, a PhD Candidate in Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University. Prior to graduate school, Micah received his B.S. in chemistry from Stanford University and completed research internships at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, the National Cancer Institute, and Genentech.

The company was also selected to participate in MIT’s Sloan School of Business student-industry collaboration; were invited to the Harvard innovation Lounge, and were selected by the Connecticut Technology Council as a 2015 Connecticut Tech Company to Watch! Go Allergy Amulet!

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Mommy, do entrepreneurs have angels?
Authentic Maine Angels Sam Fratoni and Catherine York took a break from their angelic heralding to illuminate our questions with their combined wisdom and humor.
 
Some people pray to angels, and other people channel them, and some hang them at the top of holiday trees. What would you say is the best way to invoke an Angel connection?

“Praying” to Angles when all else fails doesn’t work.  You have to take the climb up the tree, branch by knurly branch to get to the Angel on the top.  The first way is to make sure you have an investable company.  Is your business solving a real pain point in a fast growing market?  Do you have what it takes to scale your company and capture market share.  Is it true that "if you build it, they will come?"  What is the evidence of your success so far?  A quality business will attract investment and needed resources.  When you're ready, you can go to maineangels.org.  You still have to hold on to stay at the top of the tree, but the view is great above all the lights!

Angels have a halo of mystery – what misconceptions do people have about angels?

Have you ever seen holiday decorations that are just money stuck all around the place?  Angel investing is not just about providing capital.  Many angels have expertise and mentoring ability that can help entrepreneurs solve complex challenges.  And they can make connections to many other “lights” for your business.  And don’t confuse an Angel with an Elf.  These angels do expect to make a return.  While angels are willing to take more risk and have amazing patience, they're still making the investment with the expectation of making a significant return on their investment.  Celebrations are always better with others.

What do you like most about being a Maine Angel as opposed to being, say, a Massachusetts Angel?

It is like being at a great party at someone else’s house. We love being a part of growing the entrepreneurial community and driving economic development in Maine.  It allows us to be involved in more and more diverse endeavors than we could lead on our own. We like seeing others develop the skills and knowledge to carry forward.  And who can argue with being with other Angels?  Besides -  Maine Angels are good, and nice!

In what way are Maine Angels and guardian angels similar?

Just like guardian angels, Maine Angels care about their entrepreneurs. We're known for providing mentorship and strategic guidance when needed and for being one of the top angel groups in the company for follow on investments.  Also, we give advice meant to drive better outcomes - though may not always feel gentle and caring at the time. Finally, we’re earthly angels - not pure or perfect, just working hard to help create more success, while having some fun and enjoying comradarie. 

Angels have to earn their wings – how do Maine Angels earn theirs?  

In general, Angels develop and prove themselves worthy by building experiences (not always successful) and skills running businesses and organizations.  They understand the power of learning from others, and develop a commitment to mentoring others as a way to pay back to the community.  They know the high risk of starting businesses, and are willing to invest their time and money to help a higher percentage succeed. They also need some persistence and passion to keep the tree up and holiday spirit all year long as a way to get through the failures and the long haul with a smile.

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