A Wealth Of Support

When you are trying to start or grow your business it helps to have other people outside your business provide feedback, advice, training and connections. Maine has many free and “near free” Business Advisors ready to help. Click on the (green) links below to explore the many avenues of support available to you.
  • Business Advisors & Training
    SCORE (“counselors to America’s small businesses”)
    Experienced business volunteers provide counseling and assistance to those wishing to start or improve their businesses. Available to start-ups in any business sector. SCORE is a national organization with modest funding from the SBA (Small Business Administration). Offices are located across Maine; the Portland chapter is one of the best in the country, led by Greenlight Maine panelist Nancy Strojny.

    Maine Small Business Development Center (Maine SBDC)
    Funded by the SBA and the state of Maine, the professional staff offer free business consulting and a wide range of workshops from offices throughout the state. Visit their web site and submit a request for an advisor. Offices across Maine, many of which are run be CEI.

    Coastal Enterprises, Inc (CEI)
    General business counseling is provided by counselors located throughout the state, as well as targeted programs for: women, refugees or immigrants, fishermen/women &/or sustainable agriculture. CEI also has a wide variety of funding programs ranging from microloans to venture capital. Wiscasset office: 207-882-7552; Portland office: 207-772-5356, building a consolidated headquarters in Brunswick for 2016.

    Women’s Business Center (WBC)
    Certified business counselors provide free one-on-one business assistance to help Maine entrepreneurs start, manage, and grow their business. Also free and low-cost workshops & networking events in locations throughout the state, as well as via an online workshop & training platform. A service of CEI.

    New Ventures Maine
    Formerly known as Women Work and Community, this non-profit offers programs for career, business and financial education. It “meets people where they are” providing support, guidance, and the tools to Build a Career, Start a Business, Manage Finances, and Develop Community Leadership. Centers offering classes are located all across Maine.

    Start Smart
    A free business development program that assists refugees & immigrants start up or expand businesses. Download a brochure in English, Spanish, Somali, Arabic or French. A program of CEI (Coastal Enterprised). startsmart@ceimaine.org

    Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development (MCED)
    MCED helps Maine’s most promising entrepreneurs to launch and grow their innovative businesses through mentoring, training and connections. Greenlight Maine host Don Gooding is Executive Director, dgooding@mced.biz but it may be easier to first connect with Susan Ruhlin, Program Manager, sruhlin@mced.biz. Located in Portland, some of their programs including Top Gun, MCEDOnlineU and Top Gun Prep reach across the state. They now offer Launch Your Brilliant Idea,” an online self-paced course to help people figure out what they should do to go from just an idea to a launched business.

    Women Standing Together (WST)
    WST inspires, builds community, and makes a valuable difference for women as leaders and entrepreneurs. Women entrepreneurs can connect with a community who will support them in the growth of their business. Quarterly round table sessions provide feedback & referrals on the entrepreneur's challenge.
  • Online Maine Resources
    The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, through its Business Answers program, connects new and existing businesses with the various state departments and agencies responsible for specific licenses, permits, rules and regulations. While Business Answers does not advise on legal or financial matters, contacting the program staff is a good first step when faced with the question, “where do I start?” It is particularly focused on licenses and permits necessary to start a business. Business Answers can be reached by calling 1-800-872-3838 or via the web link.

    The Resource Guide for Small Businesses from the Maine office of the Small Business Administration (SBA) is a useful, downloadable PDF here with a wide range of resources listed in its 60 pages. It is especially helpful if you are preparing for a bank loan.

    The State of Maine has a portal for Small Business Resources as well.

    Maine Department of Economic and Community Development has a portal for businesses. They also have “account executives” whose job it is to help businesses navigate through state government related issues, and those people are each assigned a particular territory to serve.
  • Financing Resources
    Many young companies turn first to banks for financing, but quite often banks are unable to lend to startup businesses because of all the federal and state regulations that keep them from taking too many risks. Here are some other places to turn.

    Debt Financing and Loan Guarantees

    Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI)
    CEI is a private, nonprofit that provides financing and support for job-creating small businesses, natural resources industries, community facilities, and affordable housing in primarily rural regions of Maine. CEI & its subsidiaries offer various programs including financing for otherwise hard to finance businesses.
    • Direct loans to start-up, existing and growing Maine small businesses, in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $50,000.
    • Venture capital investments in small businesses located in New England and the mid-Atlantic region. Investments range from under $500,000 to over $1 million.
    • New Markets Tax Credits are available for investments in targeted distressed communities in Maine, Northern New England, and upstate New York. Select projects with high 3E impact will be considered in other parts of the country. Tax credit investments range from $2 million to $30 million.
    • The SBA 504 loan program which provides fixed-rate financing for machinery, equipment and buildings - as much as $4 million for manufacturing.

    Finance Authority of Maine (FAME)
    FAME offers a wide array of business assistance programs, ranging from traditional loan insurance programs for both small & larger businesses (useful when a bank can’t quite take the risk on their own), to tax credits for investments that individuals make in dynamic, growth-oriented, manufacturing or export-related firms. a
    5 Community Drive, Augusta Tel 207-623-3263 or 1-800-228-3734

    Small Business Administration (SBA)
    The SBA is a federal organization that does many things to support small business. It does not directly make loans but it does provide loan guarantees that enable commercial banks to lend where the risks otherwise would be too high. The SBA now has a convenient way for businesses to connect with SBA Approved Lenders, called the LINC program with three simple steps, click the link.

    Grants for Entrepreneurs

    Libra Future Fund
    Grant funding available to young entrepreneurs with a business plan, good references and a passion about what they want to do. Exclusively for entrepreneurs under 30 yrs old. Coordinator is Erik Hayward, erik@librafoundation.org; 207-879-6280

    Maine Technology Institute (MTI)
    MTI has a staged series of grants and attractive loans for innovators and companies looking to turn their technology ideas into commercial products. They are part of the Business Innovation program at MTI. The three most common are:

    • Tech Start Grants: up to $5,000 grants (awarded 12 times/yr) for concept planning, market research and tech transfer exploration
    • Seed Grants: up to $25,000 (awarded 3 times/yr) to support very early stage research & development activities for new products & services that lead to the market. Funded activities include proof of concept, prototype development & testing, field trials, pilot studies or technology transfer activities. * All projects must fall under one of Maine’s 7 targeted technology sectors.
    • Development Awards up to $500,000 (awarded 3 times/yr) to conduct further research as a conditional loan for later stage R&D activity. (requires funding or in-kind match). (Requires a Concept Review Meeting with MTI Business Innovation Staff)

    Some federal government agencies set aside research funding for small business grants. MTI has resources to help companies understand and prepare for these grant applications. While the grants can exceed $1 million they also take a lot of time and effort. For more information first visit this web page.

    Slow Money Maine
    As an enabler of the “Slow Food” movement, Slow Money Maine is an intentionally inclusive, diverse network representing many sectors and communities in Maine, with a focus on supporting local sustainable food systems. They convene gatherings, connect people to each other’s needs, and catalyze the flow of funds and technical assistance to a wide array of food businesses. They provide a mix of small grants and loans to farms and agriculture related businesses. Slow Money Maine is the most active Slow Money group in the world!

    Equity Financing

    For a small number of entrepreneurs with very high growth potential, selling a share of your company can help finance a plan that banks and grants won’t.

    Maine Angels
    An organized group of more than 70 individual private equity investors who make early-stage investments. Maine Angels acts as a mechanism for interested accredited investors to collaboratively locate, investigate and make investments in early-stage, high risk/return opportunities. Since being organized in 2003, Maine Angels has collectively invested more than $13 million in more than 40 promising early stage ventures, about half in Maine and the rest across New England. There are monthly meetings to review deals. Each individual decides on their own investment from the shared due diligence. Greenlight Maine host Don Gooding was Vice Chair for the last four years.

    Maine Venture Fund (MVF)
    The Maine Venture Fund is a professionally managed venture capital fund that invests exclusively in Maine companies that demonstrate a potential for high growth and public benefit. The Fund has been actively investing in Maine companies since 1997, after its creation by an act of the Maine Legislature in 1995. The fund has received $13 million in capital contributions from the State of Maine and operates as a revolving, “evergreen” fund with more than 20 companies in its current portfolio.
  • Communities
    Big Gig
    Since 2012 this regular event in Orono has brought together the entrepreneur and university community for pitch competitions and networking.

    Environmental & Energy Technology Council of Maine
    Association of private companies, government agencies, educational institutions & non-profit organizations committed to advancing the "clean tech" sector’s sustainable job growth, research & development, & new product commercialization.

    Maine Entrepreneurs LinkedIn Discussion Group
    Join this LinkedIn discussion group to see & email other >500 members of that group. Networking meetings are held quarterly at the offices of Bernstein Shur in Portland.

    Maine Startup and Create Week
    A week long national conference in Portland celebrating innovators, entrepreneurs and startups. Dozens of events, hundreds of speakers, thousands of attendees from across the country.

    Portland-based network of young business leaders affiliated with the Portland Regional Chamber as an independent network, Propel’s annual “Entreverge Awards” pay tribute to the skills, passion, and commitment of greater Portland’s entrepreneurs.

    Realize Maine
    Realize Maine connects Maine's young professional networking groups. Affiliated regional groups include: Fusion:Bangor, Midcoast Magnet, Momentum Aroostoock, PROPEL, YPLAA, and Spark. Contact: info@realizemaine.org A program of the Maine Development Foundation
  • Marketing
    Maine has an unusually large number of excellent marketing organizations that provide their services on a national basis. Here are a few.

    Traditional Media Plus

    Burgess Advertising and Marketing (Portland) – branding, collateral, advertising, and digital marketing

    CD & M Communications - marketing and communications

    Ethos Marketing (Westbrook) – brand centered agency providing marketing strategy, branding, integrated communications.

    Garrand (Portland) – full service marketing including advertising and digital. Clients include Hood, Dunkin Donuts, DeLorme, Dead River Company, Westin, and CLYNK.

    Rinck Advertising (Auburn) – full service marketing agency. Clients include Green Mountain Coffee, Agren Appliance, Garelick Farms, Norway Savings Bank, Maine Music Society.

    Sutherland Weston - marketing and communications

    The VIA Agency (Portland) – full service marketing with mostly national clients such as Klondike, Sam’s Club, TD Ameritrade, Samsung along with Fairpoint and People’s United Bank.

    Vreeland Marketing and Design (Yarmouth) – full service marketing agency including branding, advertising, public relations and digital marketing.

    The Maine Public Relations Council has an online directory of members who specialize in PR.

    Digital Media & Web Sites

    Big Room Studios (Portland) – web design, with particular strength on application development for high-function web and mobile. Works with tech startups.

    Dirigo Design and Development (Portland) – a consulting-centered boutique agency

    Dream Local Digital (Rockland) – a small business agency specializing in social media marketing.

    Flyte New Media (Portland) – web design and digital marketing with strength in social media.

    iBec Creative (Portland) – web design, ecommerce, branding and related digital marketing.

    Hall Internet Marketing (Portland) – web design and digital only marketing agency, particular strength in Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

    Mainely SEO (Portland) – web design with particular emphasis on Search Engine Optimization and Google pay per click advertising.

    Might and Main (Portland) – design firm specializing in branding

    Pulse Marketing Agency (Bangor) – digital marketing in many forms.

    Rainstorm Consulting (Bangor) – web design and related custom programming, with particular strength in education and Wordpress.

    Visible Logic (Portland) – digital branding, web design, content marketing with particular strength in email marketing.

    Social Media Breakfast convenes digital marketing professionals every month in Portland.
  • Legal
    Lawyers and doctors have something in common: there are general practitioners and there are specialists. Just like you need a good GP but don’t want her to perform brain surgery on you, a good general business attorney can supply many but not all of your needs.

    Lawyer referral of the Maine Bar Association will connect you with the type of attorney you need: 800-860-1460 or VISIT.
  • Accounting
    It’s critical to know how money is flowing in and out of your business. There are many bookkeepers who can help put transactions into software such as QuickBooks, but generally they need to be told how to organize the transactions. There are CPAs (Certified Public Accountants) who generally are trained to organize your information so you can file tax returns, and many will help you minimize your taxes. However, not as many are trained in Management Accounting, which is a different way or organizing your QuickBooks data (or generating Excel spreadsheets) so that you can manage your business based on the numbers – for example, focusing on profitable products, managing your future cash flow, or preparing for appropriate financing.
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