After serving 8 years in the military, with 4 infantry tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Graham Platner returned to Maine to take over Waukeag Neck Oyster Farm in his hometown of Sullivan. With a built-in support system of friends and family in the hospitality industry, Platner bought a boat and began the process of expanding! He reached out to Maine SBDC at CEI Business Advisor Peter Piconi in early 2021 who helped him establish priorities for him to focus on, short term and long term. They worked together to flush out a solid business plan and financial projections. They discussed funding options and decided to explore the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Small Business Growth & Recovery Grant. Piconi provided feedback on the written and video applications ultimately leading to Platner being awarded a $20,000 grant, which he is using to obtain new cages and equipment.
Piconi brought a background in aquaculture to his advising and helped Platner consider eco-tourism options for his business in addition to his wholesale process. However, who would want to give up the best customer in the world, his mom’s restaurant! Being able to come back to Maine and work on something he strongly believes in, focused on the future, brought back a sense of purpose that he thought he’d lost. Now he is able to focus on what really matters to him, sharing local food and boosting the local economy!