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How To: Create a working business plan

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Many small business people think of the business plan as that thing they had to do to obtain financing for their business. While that is one way to describe a business plan, it isn’t the right one.

Business plans are not something that should be seen as a hurdle. Think of it as a ladder. The business plan is part of a process that helps you achieve your goals. It leads you onward and upward. Sometimes the steps go quickly and sometimes they don’t. If you have done your research you should be well prepared and have a sound basis for your business decisions. You don’t need a business plan that is from a 30-page template you found on line. You need a working business plan.

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Business Highlight: Lost Valley – Auburn

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12247088_10150572329809950_1312391115200000601_nLost Valley, a small ski area located in Auburn, Maine, has been a staple of the area since 1961. The first ski area in Maine to make artificial snow, the business features 15 trails and a terrain park, offering something for skiers of all abilities. It also boasts one of the largest ski schools in Maine.

When the potential for purchasing the business arose, Scott Shanaman and his wife April jumped at the opportunity.  Familiar with the ski industry (they also own and run a ski lift maintenance business) but seeking guidance on obtaining financing and executing the purchase, they reached out to Jane Mickeriz, Maine SBDC business advisor at the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments (AVCOG). Together they spent many hours working on a business plan, financial projections and loan packaging which Shanaman presented to several banks. 

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Client News: Vintage Maine Kitchen in Freeport cooks up old-fashion potato chips

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Maine SBDC client in the news…

“Hang on, I’ve got to pull a rack of chips from the fryer,” says Kelly Brodeur — co-owner with her husband Scott of the startup Vintage Maine Kitchen — before settling into a recent phone interview.

Celebrating their first year in business on Aug. 1, it seems the Brodeurs are pulling countless racks as their small-batch, hand-made potato chips soar in popularity. From a first run of 12 cases produced from 100 pounds of potatoes for a local store, they are today producing chips for about 100 locations in Maine and beyond, and enjoy robust online sales.

They decline to cite revenue, but say their sales figures are twice the start-up loan amount they received from Coastal Enterprises Inc., the Brunswick-based nonprofit that assists with rural business development.”

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Maine SBDC names Christine Long as 2016 State Star

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Christine Long

Christine (Chris) Long, 2016 Maine SBDC State Star

The Maine Small Business Development Centers (Maine SBDC), a state-wide program that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, has selected Christine Long as the 2016 State Star. The award, given annually, recognizes a member of the Maine SBDC staff that has shown exemplary performance and a strong commitment to small business success.

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Bucksport Bay Area Business Breakfast & Small Business Resource Fair

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You’re Invited! Bucksport Bay Area Business Breakfast & Small Business Resource Fair

Robert "Bob" Crowley, during the eighth episode of SURVIVOR: GABON - EARTH'S LAST EDEN, Thursday, Nov 6 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.  Photo: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS ©2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

Robert “Bob” Crowley, during the eighth episode of SURVIVOR: GABON – EARTH’S LAST EDEN, CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS ©2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

Small business owners and entrepreneurs! 

Join us for a fun and informative morning with a FREE buffet breakfast featuring Maine’s own Bob Crowley, small business owner and winner of Survivor: Gabon. Bob will entertain you with stories of his time on Survivor, his experiences as a small business owner and much more. 

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Business Owners Beware: Tips to avoid getting ripped off from online loan scams

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KeyboardWhen cash flow is an issue and convenient online loan applications just a few clicks away, business owners have access to hundreds of alternative financing options, both legitimate and deceptive. You need money, they say they have it. They offer fast cash and guaranteed, instant pre-approval. Bad credit? No business plan? No problem.  Just send in $1,000 to cover “insurance,” “processing” or “transfer fees” along with all your personal and financial information and they’ll get you the money wired into your checking account in 72 hours’ time. Or will they?

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In today’s internet-focused business environment, scammers are increasingly looking for unique ways to take advantage of people – particularly to get access to your money or your personal information. Using sophisticated and ‘real looking’ loan applications, these ‘lenders’ prey on people who are already in financial trouble.

Don’t be their next victim. It’s important for business owners to do their due diligence. Be wary of unsolicited phone calls, emails, advertisements or letters. Be aware of red flags and be skeptical of anyone who asks for personal or financial information. Investing some time researching a lender could save you a ton of money in the long run.

LOOK FOR THESE RED FLAGS –

Upfront fees – You should never pay an advanced fee or upfront cost to secure a loan. Legitimate lenders do not guarantee a loan in exchange for a fee at the time of application. Most real lenders will take fees from the amount you are borrowing, but not before you receive you your loan or before you even apply.

Not requiring credit check or business plan – The reality is that many entrepreneurs have less than perfect credit and because of this are drawn to offers that don’t require credit checks. While there are legitimate programs that have offerings for those with poor credit, business owners should be skeptical of the ‘no strings attached’ sales pitch that many of these scams advertise. Scammers often don’t seem to care about repayment and ignore poor credit or the lack of business plan that can outline a company’s ability to repay and the risk for the lender.

Not listing an address or phone on their website – Domestic addresses do not guarantee that the lender is legitimate. Scammers set up local PO boxes in the US that are forwarded elsewhere. They often don’t list contact information so you have no way of following up when things go awry.

PROTECT YOURSELF –

Research the Lender – Always check a prospective lender with the Better Business Bureau or Maine attorney general’s office.  Check their ratings, complaint history and customer reviews. Talk to other small business owners who may have worked with this lender. While you definitely should not believe everything you see, a simple online search can help uncover a lot about the company. Visit their website, social media pages, and find their contact information but don’t be lured by a good-looking website.   If still unsure, check with a Maine SBDC advisor who would be more than happy to help.

Keep personal and business information secure – Never give out financial or personal information over the phone or internet to anyone unless you are familiar with the company and you understand how the information will be used.

Read the fine print – Make sure you read all the terms and conditions of a loan before you hit the submit button. Pay close attention to fees, interest rate and the total repayment amount.  By clicking submit, you may be agreeing to thousands in fees and a very high interest rate.

Monitor your banking accounts closely – Once they have your information, many online scammers will attempt to make unauthorized withdrawals from your account. Be sure to keep a close eye on your statements and check your account regularly.