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Listen to Bisson

Betsy Biemann and Keith Bisson

Keith Bisson is president of Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) in Brunswick. If you’ve heard of a startup in Maine, they probably had a hand in getting it going. They are willing to take a risk on early stage innovators that conventional lenders and investors won’t, calculating good jobs and environmental benefits in addition to dollars, as core to return on investment. He’s pictured here with ceo Betsy Biemann. Together they lead this organization that is core to Maine’s entrepreneurial community.

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In 2017, CEI or its subsidiaries assisted almost 2,000 Maine entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, including these high profile examples: Paul and Theresa Lancisi of Dove Tail Bats in Shirley Mills; Julie Swain of Dog Not Gone in Skowhegan; Jim Chattley of Meineke Topsham Car Care Center; Ten Ten Piè in Portland; and Corrin and Shirley Conforte of Kindred Farms Market and Bakery in Casco, and of course my favorite, Hyperlite Mountain Gear in Biddeford.

The community nonprofit helped to finance the completion of eight historic redevelopment projects from Biddeford to Waterville, made a first-in-the-nation loan from the innovative USDA Community Facilities Relending Program to support the expansion of a YMCA in Central Lincoln County, supported the design and commercialization of innovative technologies at companies such as Pemaquid Mussel Farms and Ocean Renewable Power Company, and successfully exited an equity investment in the software company Certify. They’ve been busy.

But we don’t talk about any of that stuff. Instead, we learn about Keith’s first bike, his passion for taking on investments that others turn away, personal guarantees and second positions, plus a little bit of gelato.

Forty years ago, remarkably, CEI was a startup too. Now it’s time for their 40th Anniversary Celebration, which will be held on April 25, 2018 at Brick South on Thompson’s Point in Portland. I hope you will register and I hope to see you there. I expect it will be the #1 entrepreneurial event of the year in Maine.

 

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Kevin Cain of MaineSole

Kevin Cain

MaineSole is bringing handcrafted shoemaking back to Dexter, Maine. It is a remarkable startup story of founders that had no factory, no customers, and nothing but the idea that the proud heritage of a Maine town deserves to be handed down to the next generation.

It’s like we entrepreneurs do, jump off the cliff and put the airplane together on the way, right?

Enjoyed this episode? Please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here, ….or Stitcher here.

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Ben Davis of True Course Yachting and Portland Container Co.

Ben Davis

This is our second time having Ben Davis on. His first visit was one of our most popular episodes ever and we’re glad to have him back to talk about his new venture Portland Container Company.

What I think is amazing about Ben is that he seeks advice and counsel, and he listens to it, and pivots. Frankly, I don’t think I did that well enough as an entrepreneur, so it makes me really appreciate it when I see it. Ben has been relentless in seeking out advice and wisdom, and has done it in an a really egoless way, which is a lot harder than it looks, isn’t it?

What advice are you looking for, what are the challenges you’re stuck on right now? Let me know at marty@growmaineshow.com, and subscribe and follow on Facebook. Don’t be afraid to be awesome!

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PJ Rose and Haj Carr of TrueLine Public Relations

PJ Rose and Haj Carr

Do you know why you do what you do? Have you found your why?

We’ve had Haj Carr on before. Through his entrepreneurship journey he has pivoted away from purely focusing on making money to running a business with a purpose. He creates believers, naturally and intuitively. That partnership has been part of TrueLine Publishing, which tends to work with national clients. But how can Maine businesses amplify their online presence? That’s the intention of his new venture, TrueLine Public Relations. So we invited the head of this new local business, PJ Rose, on with us too.

This is an interesting contrast to the previous episode with Steve Woods of TideSmart Global, who focuses on out of state clients, bringing in ‘traded dollars’ from outside the Maine economy. In fact, we started with a great discussion of traded dollars. The question is: are donut shops good for the Maine economy?

Then we get going with Haj and PJ on how they coach clients to start with why. This company goes deep with their clients. They’re not mechanics, “if this then that” guys. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe, who stand for what you stand for.

Plus, PJ gives up his best fly fishing spots. That’s nuts, PJ! You’re way too giving!

Here’s the YouTube reference: Simon Sinek Start With Why

 

 

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Helping people with big ideas to know where and how to start: Mike Sobol, CEO of Venture Hall Startup Accelerator

Mike Sobol CEO of Venture Hall Show Logo

Mike Sobol has been growing businesses of all kinds, everything from SEO to dog training, for close to 20 years. Together with Jess Knox and Elizabeth Buckley (local startup/venture legends in their own right), he recently launched Venture Hall, a new educational nonprofit in Maine. It’s built on the premise that no one owns the best ideas.

Here’s the concept: the power to innovate and create rapid, large-scale change is not a magical quality of the chosen few. It’s a process that can be taught and applied by anyone, anywhere, in any business.

After interviewing Mike, I believe it.

Venture Hall views their job as expanding the ‘geography of opportunity’ to ensure more people can access the training, funding and support they need to create exciting new innovations, whether they work within a “startup” or not.

In addition to their first startup accelerator program this summer (developed in close partnership with major health care and insurance players MaineHealth and Unum), Mike, Jess and Elizabeth are building more mechanisms to grow our Maine innovation ecosystem. That includes local startup support programs, more corporate partnerships, and a code school geared toward adults who are considering a career in software development.

The podcast (although it turned into something more) was planned in order to promote Venture Hall’s upcoming Demo Day. Demo Day is not a pitch contest. It’s actually a chance to see the technology that the four startups currently in residence at Venture Hall are developing. Demonstrated live in person, possibly on you. You’ll see amazing tech at work, and think, how in the heck did they do that? Then, you’ll get to see that question answered. That’s the plan. Helping people with big ideas, like you, know where and how to start (I think you know the when part).

Plus, a keynote by Silicon Valley venture capital legend Dave Roux and a mixer afterwards. Friday September 8, 3PM. Free tickets here.

 

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Nancy Strojny of Portland Maine SCORE

Nancy Strojny of SCORE Portland Maine

The Portland, Maine office of SCORE is one of the top chapters in the country, and much of the credit is due to chair Nancy Strojny. Following a successful career in product management at Procter & Gamble, Nancy has been running our local chapter since 2009, successfully advising a who’s who of Maine startups and growing the mentorship base to cover multiple areas of expertise.

Benefit from the experience of a SCORE mentor – sign up for a mentoring session today.

 

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Margo Walsh of MaineWorks

Margo Walsh with crew

Margo Walsh is the founder and CEO of MaineWorks, which provides day labor to industrial construction sites. The company is growing quickly, not just in spite of – but because – it has a developed a specialty in working with people in recovery. Finding success by helping to solve a difficult, pressing problem. Remarkable. I hope you enjoy this episode.

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Maine Technology Institute’s Tech Walk

I walked into MTI’s Tech Walk with the ol’ Zoom H4N at the ready and conducted some on the spot interviews. It was fun to do, and I met some powerful entrepreneurs created success statewide. In this episode I also put in a plug for a Biddeford based pitch contest called Pitch York County, which I hope you’ll participate in.

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Ben Sprague, Bangor City Councilor, Host of The Maine Show, and VP at The First

Ben Sprague

I very much enjoyed my conversation with fellow podcaster Ben Sprague. In addition to hosting The Maine Show, a podcast which features entrepreneurs and thought leaders from around the State, Ben is a Bangor City Councilor and VP of Business Development at The First (a Bangor-based community bank).

Ben is a much admired city councilor with excellent perspective and an interesting background. His podcast is highly recommended. It was a great pleasure to have him on the show. Here’s the episode:

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