Letter to Editor: Cultivating businesses

To the Editor:

As your readers well know, small businesses are the backbone of our community, our state, our nation — indeed the world.

Individuals, and often couples, with a passion for food, flowers, art, the sea or a million other interests set out to create something new with dual purposes: to meet customer needs and support themselves and their family. The businesses may remain the quintessential mom-and-pop shop for generations, or they may grow to become the multinational corporation that provides the essential services we can’t function without — one we didn’t even know we needed the decade before.

But many of these budding businesses don’t start out with a background in business, financials, marketing or logistics. And that is where the Mount Desert Business Boot Camp has stepped in for a handful of local businesses.

The weekend of March 8 to 10 we were delighted to collaborate with a host of organizations, businesses and individuals to provide an intensive weekend of business skills development to 10 local enterprises. Over the course of the weekend there were 38 hours of programming at the Northeast Harbor Library for 21 participants, with 20 mentors on hand to help guide them. On Sunday, the businesses each presented a three-minute pitch to a panel of judges and an audience of more than 150 people at The Neighborhood House, all competing for $5,000-10,000 of award funding. We are grateful to the audience members who drove through a snow squall to cheer on the businesses and place their votes for a winner.

Some of the businesses were brand new, while others have been around for almost a decade. Many of the business owners have years of experience in their field, but still want to learn new ways to improve their operation and stay competitive in an ever-changing business environment. Running a small business often means taking great risks and taking on great responsibilities, especially if you’ve got employees to consider. We salute them all for their initiative in creating businesses that provide us with goods or services, and for taking the additional risk of standing before a full house to make their pitch. Congratulations to Milk & Honey for winning the Judge’s Award and to Bar Harbor Oyster Company for winning the Audience Choice Award. We thank all the participants for jumping in to learn, to share and to create a wonderful atmosphere of collegiality throughout the weekend. We think of them all as winners!

Great thanks go out to the Mount Desert Chamber of Commerce for co-hosting the event and providing nourishment throughout the weekend; to Bar Harbor Bank & Trust for being the sponsor and BHBT employees for their time as mentors; to the Maine Community Foundation for their financial support; to other entities from around the state for providing mentors, including College of the Atlantic, First National Bank, CEI-Small Business Development Center, the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, MaineStream Finance, UMaine Foster Center for Innovation and Maine Technology Institute; to the NEH Library and The Neighborhood House for the use of their wonderful spaces and staff that made us all feel welcomed; to Mount Desert Elementary School and Seaside UCC Church for the loan of audio equipment and tables; to the judges Curtis Simard, Nancy Ho, and Hank Schmelzer; to family members Jerry Miller and Reid Birdsall who pitched in to help with setup and took charge of photography; to all the mentors who provided hours of volunteer time to share their experience and insights with participants: Brenda Fernald, Chris Linder, Deb Neuman, Earl Brechlin, Janet Strong, Jennifer Judd-McGee, John Pavan, Jon Nicholson, Josh Yarbrough, Laura Sweeney, Lisa Parsons, Marcia Bender, Mia Thompson, Renee Kelly, Sam McGee, Shannon Byers, Stephen Dowdy, Steve Gurin, Tim Murphy and Tom Reeve. And finally, special thanks to COA sustainable business professor Jay Friedlander for developing and facilitating the program with his team members Jordan Motzkin and Kerri Sands. It has been our pleasure to work with each of these individuals, organizations and businesses that all came together to support a flourishing local business community.

Kathy Miller

and Alex Birdsall

Mount Desert 365

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