Ever since he can remember, John Fuhrman’s “mutha” had a real knack for cooking. In DownEast Maine, her kitchen skills were almost legendary. One day, after tinkering around with spices in the kitchen, “mutha” developed a special blend of spices that needed to be shared. The blend combined a Maine attitude with local ingredients such as organic blueberry powder, maple crystals and even Raye’s Mustard (the oldest mustard company in America made right here in Maine).
This is how John’s company Bub ‘n Muthas was started and their first product DownEast Dinnah (pronounced dinn-uh) Dust was created. The company later their Honey n’ HEAT flavor which added other varieties with honey crystals and chipotle to the mustard and blueberry. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, John loves every minute of creating, mixing, bottling and sharing his family’s classic Maine gourmet dry rubs.
He is working with Maine SBDC Business Advisor Shannon Byers to expand his business. They have worked on his business plan and discussed ways to grow his web sales and retail locations. Bub ‘n Muthas are looking to grow so he can hire other talented Veterans from the area so they can earn a quality living, get training and keep their families in Maine. For every 10,000 bottles they sell, they plan to offer an area veteran a job. More info on this initiative here.
Lindsay Ware has a passion for wildlife and conservation. That is why she started Science Dogs of New England. This new business creates opportunities and solutions for conservation and environmental research in New England using highly trained dogs for efficient, low-impact data collection and conservation processes.
Lindsay worked with Business Advisor Shannon Byers to help her think through her idea, understand her market and work through the steps of starting a business. They discussed her branding and marketing message including logo design, website, and attire. They also worked together to review her processes and operations.
Science Dogs of New England officially launched in 2019. They supply scent detection teams to conservation and research organizations such as government agencies, private organizations, and educational institutions. Each highly-trained dog is accompanied by a handler that is not only skilled in working with their canine partner but is also an experienced field biologist.
Their dogs are trained in scent detection and physically primed for fieldwork. Their science dogs are prepared to tract and detect live animals, animal scat, egg masses, plants and more. Conservation detection dogs have been repeatedly shown to increase sample size, cover large study areas more efficiently, find small targets, and have a low ecological impact on study areas.
Lacey Clark had been a co-owner of a successful daycare in Houlton, Maine for a number of years. From her experience, she understood that childcare in Aroostook County is extremely limited with most providers at 100% capacity. When she saw that another existing daycare across town was going to be closing its doors, she understood what this would mean for families and the community.
Lacey made the decision to leave her business partnership and go out solely on her own. She wanted to purchase this existing daycare and keep the doors open. She turned to Josh Nadeau, Maine SBDC business advisor located at Northern Maine Development Commission. Josh helped her craft a business plan and accompanying financial projections. With seller financing and some owner investment, she was able to purchase the Grasshopper Academy. Located on Hillview Ave in Houlton, Grasshopper Academy provides childcare for children ages 6weeks to 12 years of age.
A few months later, Lacey reached back out to Josh. She wanted to purchase the building where the daycare was currently operating. Josh helped her through the negotiation process with her landlord. He again helped her to refine her business plan and create a set of financial projections in order to obtain a loan.
In September 2019, Lacey purchased the building. Since purchasing the business, Lacey has been able to expand and hire two employees and enroll more children into her center.
Lacy comments, “I can’t thank Josh enough for all his help. He has a great personality and goes above and beyond that extra step to help with whatever is needed. While I was still working and trying to purchase a building, Josh and staff would drive to me to get documents and truly made this as easy and non-stressful as this could be. Thank you NMDC for making my dream come true!”
Small Business Saturday helps promote Maine communities and the businesses that make them special. It’s a great day to highlight your business and show how much you appreciate your customers. It provides a unique opportunity for small businesses throughout Maine to increase holiday sales. Use Small Business Saturday to generate sales, foot traffic and visibility for your small business.
1. Get the official materials
Make sure you list your business on the official Small Business Saturday website. Get the official materials and display them proudly. Make sure that it is obvious that your business is open and welcoming for potential customers.
2. Create a special offer:
Provide a discount or a gift with sales that will encourage shoppers to stop in and purchase.
3. Focus on digital outreach:
Social media is a great way to communicate your plans for Small Business Saturday. Use your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to let your followers know that you are participating, will be open and excited about this day focused on community. Don’t forget to use the hashtag: #shopsmall
Don’t forget your email list: Send an email update to your customer list to keep them in the loop!
4. Provide a unique in-store experience:
Provide tired shoppers with treats – coffee or snacks go a long way. Have a fishbowl giveaway. Offer gift-wrapping. Provide something special for shoppers to create a memorable experience. Small Business Saturday is a unique opportunity to provide top-notch customer service and create loyal, repeat customers.
5. Coordinate with other local businesses:
Reach out to your neighboring businesses to create a unique offer or incentive to encourage foot traffic or purchase. You could team up with a local restaurant or café, or give your neighbor’s customers a special incentive to stop in. Get creative!
6. Don’t forget your regulars:
Your regular customers are a valuable asset for your business. Make sure they know that you are participating in Small Business Saturday. Let them know what exciting items and offers you will be featuring. To entice them to come back in, offer them a special deal just for them as a thank you. Let them know you appreciate their business.
Use the momentum of Small Business Saturday to generate new customers for your business. If done well, these customers could keep coming back! Feel free to reach out to your Maine SBDC business advisor who would be happy to help brainstorm creative ideas to get the most out of this community-focused day.
Nicole Stanford is the owner of Freckle Salvage Company, a business located in the Western Maine foothills that features unique vintage mixed with new home goods. Alongside her husband and son, she had been selling her products successfully online and at markets and decided it was time to expand her business. Her goal was to leave her full-time job and open a retail location in Winthrop, Maine.
To understand her next steps, Nicole reached out to Raynor Large, business advisor at the Maine SBDC at AVCOG. Raynor helped Nicole understand the steps to starting this new venture. He provided information on the different business entities and insurance options. The pair also worked to get a better understanding of the business’ finances. They were able to build out a set of financial projections that helped her understand how much she would need to sell in order to stay profitable and continue moving forward.
Freckle Salvage Company opened its doors in August 2019. Located at 129 Main Street in Winthrop, the business has received rave reviews. Reviewers comment on the amazing products (“treasures”), the affordable pricing and the friendliness of Nicole and her family with phrases like “Incredible shop & lovely owner”, “This is what the downtown needs!”, and “Awesome store with awesome finds!”
Nicole continues to work with Raynor to control costs, discuss new opportunities for growth and work on marketing strategy.
Getting Noticed as a Small Fish
By: Alison Lane, Business Advisor
“Helloooo, I’m Here!”
We can all agree that owning a small business is demanding, perplexing, and often lonely, but those new to the game or competing in a particularly busy market have the extra challenge of getting noticed. No sales revenue means no money to spend to generate sales, and it can often feel like swimming in circles.
Fortunately, there are many low or no-budget actions that can be taken to generate awareness, optimize service, and keep customers coming back.
What Really Is Targeting?
Target marking is not wasting precious time or dollars reaching the wrong audience or using the wrong channel. Stop trying to connect with everyone and target the “low-hanging fruit”. Who is most likely to use your product or service? Who can afford it?
Once you have determined who will be the easiest to sell to, dig in! How can they be reached—are they on social media? Do they go to events? Are they part of a networking group? Think about what is important to them. When purchasing your product or service, do they care about quality, price, packaging, availability, number of choices, design, something else? Tailor your offerings to meet the needs of the most likely customers.
Market research is how you find your answers. Using the Internet or a market research tool like Google Trends is a good start, but nothing beats putting the boots to the ground and talking to people. Surveys, interviews, social media engagement, and networking can all get you connected. People love to share their tastes and preferences, so do not be afraid to ask!
It Is About Who You Know
Networking is a great method to do market research, but it has many purposes and usually only costs you your time. Networking events are easy to find via social media, your local business resource partners (like the Maine SBDC), and municipal economic development departments.
Attending a local networking event will get you face-to-face with potential customers and give you the opportunity to give your pitch and put a face to a business name. One of the biggest values of face-to-face marketing is that it humanizes your company. How often do you ignore an ad that pops up on your phone? If someone was standing in front of you telling you about that product, would you pay more attention? What if they shook your hand? What if they did something for you? You’d almost be a guaranteed customer, at least one-time.
Drive Loyalty: Quality Over Quantity
Most businesses rely to some extent on repeat customers, and even those that sell items you only purchase once-in-a-lifetime or once-in-a-while (like houses, cars, and LLBean apparel, of course) can benefit from loyalty-driven referrals. Some even say the Pareto principle applies to marketing in the sense that 80% of sales will come from 20% of customers.
So how can you inspire loyalty to ensure that 20% keeps coming back (preferably more and more) and will share their experience with others?
- Give them something to talk about—be memorable or do something different: Make a statement, support a cause, throw a party, give out free samples.
- Reward customers for talking about you or being loyal. Try, “Share this Facebook post to be entered into our contest…” Hand out loyalty punch cards to encourage frequent purchases.
- Make your customers feel special: Greet them by name, remember their preferences, go above and beyond to satisfy them, feature your customers on social media
- Thank your customers: Host a customer appreciation event, mail out thank-you notes or holiday cards, donate to your customer’s favorite causes
It is more than just a little frustrating when your top line number just won’t budge, but small efforts can generate a big return.
At the end of the day, remember to be persistent –No Fortune 500 company was a household name on day one and part of being an entrepreneur is accepting failure and learning to pivot.
Need help understanding your market? A Maine SBDC business advisor can help (at no cost!). Find an advisor near you.
Erin Sheehan and her husband Carson James first approached the Maine Small Business Development Centers (Maine SBDC) with an idea and a draft business plan. They needed help refining their plan and creating financial projections in order to secure financing.
Erin and Carson started working with Business Advisor Susan Desgrosseilliers. Susan helped the pair to understand and create helpful and realistic financial projections. They also worked together to fine-tune their business plan and understand the lenders that could meet their needs. Susan introduced Erin and Carson to Chris O’Brien from Southern Maine Finance Authority (SMFA). They submitted their application and received the funding they needed to start their business.Read More
Is the Wave of Retiring Boomers Maine’s Greatest Entrepreneurial Opportunity?
Starting a business from scratch is one of the most rewarding – and difficult – challenges to undertake. Filing for an LLC is easy, but helping the business to grow and develop requires time, effort, and unconditional (and sometimes unrequited) love.
The hurdles are significant: 20% of startups fail in the first year – a rate that jumps to well over 40% by year 4.  Top reasons for failure include: No Market Need (42%), Not Enough Cash (29%), Not the Right Team (23%), Product without a Business Model (17%), and Poor Marketing (14%).
But, if you want the coveted title of Entrepreneur, what’s the alternative? How can you reduce these risks and still achieve your goals?
Buy a Business that already exists. Consider:
- 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, across the country
- Maine is the oldest State in the US
- In the next 15 years, 12 Million Businesses are expected to Sell nationwide –  equating to $3.8 trillion in small businesses transferring by 2040
These statistics paint a dark picture that will affect every industry and county in our State… but, for the right people, it’s a land of unrivaled opportunity. By and large, the advantages of purchasing an existing business mitigate the risks of starting one, and you’ll still have the ability to tailor its next steps to reflect your strengths and goals.Read More
Rachel Sagiroglu is passionate about all that Maine has to offer. That is why she decided to start Experience Maine, a new full-service travel concierge and event planning company. Rachel knew that tourism is Maine’s largest industry, but noticed that the corporate meetings and events segment of the industry has only grown by 50,000 business-related travelers in the last three years. With over 20 years of experience in event planning, she wanted to help expand Maine’s corporate meeting and events market.
For guidance on the steps to starting this exciting new business, Rachel contacted Business Advisor Susan Desgrosseillers from the Maine Small Business Development Centers. Together they worked to price Rachel’s services, create financial projections and develop a business plan that would help understand her business and obtain a loan from Coastal Enterprises.Read More