Bumbleroot Organic Farm

Establishing Roots in Southern Maine

Jeff, Abby, Ben, and Melissa

Acquiring land was paramount in Bumbleroot Organic Farm’s origination. Jeff and Abby Fisher, along with their friends Ben Whalen and Melissa Law, began farming on just 2 acres of leased land in Buxton, Maine in 2014. With the dream to establish an organic flower, herb, and vegetable farm serving the Greater Portland area, they quickly set out to find a piece of land of their own. “For new farmers, finding land that is affordable with the necessary infrastructure to run a business is challenging. You really have to make do with what you have and make it work,” said Jeff.

When the former Weeks Farm in Windham went up for sale, the owners envisioned Bumbleroot Organic Farm there. The greatest obstacle in following their dreams and purchasing the 88-acre property was financing. When time and money was tight, CEI stepped in to support Bumbleroot Organic Farm through financing and technical assistance.

“We had a short window (about 4 months) between when we found out the property was for sale and when we needed to secure financing. CEI was one of the first lenders we contacted and from day one everyone at CEI was supportive of our proposal and helped us to articulate our business plan and vision for the property. As a multi-member LLC made up of two couples, having just finished our first farm season, we might have seemed like less than ideal candidates for a loan. But CEI recognized what we had accomplished in our first year and believed in our potential to deliver on our plans for the future.”–Jeff Fisher, co-owner Bumbleroot Organic Farm

In order to secure purchase of The Weeks Farm, a business plan involving a Maine Farmland Trust Land Easement which significantly offset costs and protected the farmland, plus technical assistance and a loan from CEI was set in motion.

Establishing roots at the new location in Windham has helped the farmers not only grow their production, but also their clientele. With daily reach into the Greater Portland area, Bumbleroot is already expanding their CSA offerings and membership.

Bumbleroot Organic Farm is a rising leader in the southern Maine community because of its commitment to increasing access to locally-grown farm-fresh food which is distributed to low-income and disadvantaged Mainers through programs including Creative Trails in Portland and My Place Teen Center in Westbrook, as well as accepting SNAP benefits.

So what’s next for Bumbleroot? Growing from two acres to 88 acres of land will allow the farmers to add livestock, perennial crops, cover crops, and winter greenhouses. “With CEI’s help we will be able to continue to connect people with the land and food that sustains them,” Jeff concluded.

Bumbleroot’s 2017 CSA shares are on sale now!

Fork Food Lab

"Connection" is the Key Ingredient

Inside Fork Food Lab, Portland’s first food incubator, the members representing 27 specialty food companies who rent out the shared kitchen space are building more than food products; they are building businesses and connections. Whether placing orders together to bring down costs, sharing information about experiences with a packaging consultant, or giving tips on increasing production volume, each individual enterprise is part of a larger collective effort.

“We wanted to start Fork to create an environment where lots of food entrepreneurs can work around each other to collaborate, learn, and have fun. At the end of the day, humans want to connect. We do better mentally and business-wise when we’re around other people.” — Fork Food Lab co-founder Neil Spillane

Building that human connection was at the core of Fork Food Lab’s philosophy from the beginning.

In order to make the dream a reality, Neil Spillane and Eric Holstein, co-founders, needed to first demonstrate the potential for a food incubator in Portland, and ultimately find the funding necessary. With overwhelming community support and networking prowess, Spillane and Holstein tapped into every resource they knew. “There wasn’t one person on the radar that I didn’t approach,” said Spillane.

They realized early on that assembling a funding package would be the greatest challenge, as Fork fell into a rare area of the investment and financing spectrum. The co-founders worked with CEI loan officer Art Stevens to determine the best possible financing options for Fork Food Lab. Among the various funding sources, they identified an SBA loan, coupled with a gap loan from CEI for equipment financing.

“Art Stevens distinctly had the success of our business as a top priority. CEI was the first one in as a professional financier,” said Spillane.

CEI’s Agriculture and Food Sector specialists immediately recognized that Fork presents a unique opportunity for small food producers, many of whom are creating recipes and products out of local ingredients in their home kitchens. “We are so excited about Fork because it offers a proven model for these makers to grow and begin to scale production without taking on a costly facility of their own,” said Daniel Wallace of CEI. “Essentially, Fork provides a safe ‘middle ground’ for these companies, backed up by a host of services and connections to new markets.”

In addition to the gap loan and technical assistance, Fork Food Lab has worked with the Women’s Business Center at CEI who currently has six clients working at the food incubator, the Workforce Development team, and the Start Smart program connecting immigrant-owned startups and businesses to the food incubator. At the Taste the World public event held in November, Fork Food Lab welcomed CEI clients Ameera Bread, Asmara Restaurant, and Babylon Restaurant to showcase ethnic foods, teach about other cultures, and offer a space for food entrepreneurs and the Portland community to connect over a shared love of food. “We hope to continue this type of collaboration with FORK and other community organizations with the ultimate goal of supporting early stage immigrant owned food businesses,” added John Scribner, Director of CEI’s StartSmart program. This is just one of a robust lineup of events promoting the talents and products of the Fork member community and connecting them with businesses and individuals outside the walls of the incubator.

Fork Food Lab has gained a tremendous amount of excitement and momentum, and has quickly become one of Portland’s premier avenues of workspace, event space, entrepreneurship, resources, knowledge-sharing, opportunity, and connection.

“We’re convinced that Fork will catalyze significant growth for the small food producers entering Maine’s local food economy,” remarked Daniel Wallace. “Plus, the principals (Neil and Eric) are awesome and deeply engaged in the local community.”

Dove Tail Bats, LLC

Big League Manufacturing in Maine

In the small town of Shirley Mills, in Piscataquis County, is a manufacturing business that reaches far beyond its rural Maine roots. Dove Tail Bats, LLC, owned by husband and wife Paul and Teresa Lancisi, specializes in manufacturing custom wood baseball bats made from Maine-grown northern white ash, yellow birch, and rock maple at both the retail and wholesale level, providing bats to amateurs and professionals alike throughout the US, Latin America, Canada, Japan as well as Australia.

After being turned down by other lenders, Paul and Teresa Lancisi came to CEI with a need for working capital. Their business had been in operation for 11 years, but in order to grow the business while maintaining their high quality custom-made bats, they needed financing.  “The inability to acquire financial backing in a capital-intensive business is a major hurdle to overcome,” said CEI loan officer, Cole Palmer. “Paul and Teresa have carefully considered every business decision. In one word, they are resourceful.”

CEI was willing to go to bat for us when other institutions were not.  This loan enabled us to have the working capital necessary to grow our business by acquiring faster, high tech equipment and at the same time increasing our buying power to drastically lower our material costs.” –Paul Lancisi, owner

While the majority of their competitors have grown too large to focus on the importance of personalized service both at the professional level and the amateur level of baseball, Dove Tail Bats views themselves as a niche player where quality, value, and a strong focus on customer service wins them new customers over time.

CEI’s loan helped the Lancisi’s purchase a CAD (computer aided design) system which replaced the physical template process, creating the ability to expand template options, improve production, and free some much-needed space in their warehouse. The loan also supported various renovations to their warehouse space, and provided working capital to invest in labor, inventory, and accounts receivable as the business continues to grow.

In the 2015 World Series, 70% of the runs scored were with Dove Tail Bats. Theresa and Paul Lancisi, owners, stand in front of the Dove Tail Bat which is on display in the Hall of Fame.

CEI worked hard to promote our best interests in the loan application process.  They were extremely professional and caring about our business and I would highly recommend them to other Maine Businesses.”

–Theresa Lancisi, owner

As one of just a handful of bat manufacturing companies under contract with Major and Minor League Baseball, and the only company of its kind in Maine, Dove Tail Bats is growing rapidly and can’t keep up with the production demand. In 2016 the business doubled it production, added their own split billet mill enabling them to purchase locally grown wood, and added MLB players including Eric Hoser, Alex Gordon, and Mike Moustakas from the Kansas City Royals, Bryce Harper from the Nationals, and Yoan Moncada of the White Sox. Dove Tail Bats continues to provide the highest quality bats to its dedicated following among players who put their faith in the strength of Maine-grown trees.

Sleepy Poet, LLC

Dream Comes True for Gastonia, NC Antique Mall

20161006_143654Dickson Shreffler, owner of Sleepy Poet Stuff, Inc., was the perfect candidate for C7a. He started the antique mall business with Sleepy Poet Stuff about 20 years ago in Charlotte. Sleepy Poet provides space for independent antique vendors to sell their wares. Vendors are very loyal, rarely leaving once they join the retail space. In fact, ten of them have been with Sleepy poet for more than 12 years.

Thanks to increased consumer demand, Sleepy Poet sought to expand. After an extensive search and due diligence the owners found the perfect space, the old Kress Five and Dime building in downtown Gastonia, about a half hour drive from Charlotte. While the historic building fit the antique entrepreneur’s brand, the structure had been vacant for nearly two years and required a good deal of work to be ready for business. After renovation the space should accommodate 120 vendors.

Mr. Shreffler approached two different local banks for a loan to finance the building acquisition and renovation costs without success. Needing a solution, He turned to LINC (which stands for Leveraging Information and Networks to access Capital), an online tool designed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) which allows business owners to complete a basic online questionnaire that is then matched to interested lenders. He was matched with C7a which works with small businesses owners to help them secure financing when turned down by a bank or face challenging loan terms.sp

 “C7a didn’t just offer us a loan; they had the flexibility to structure the loan in a way that worked for us.”

–Dickson Shreffler, Owner, Sleepy Poet

The C7a loan represents more than allow Sleepy Poet’s expansion to Gastonia. It will also be a catalyst for new foot traffic for the western side of Main Street as new small businesses expand the prime downtown shopping district creating new opportunities for local vendors and for the historic downtown area.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear

Revitalizing Community and Textile Manufacturing in Biddeford

The recently expanded production floor at Biddeford’s historic Pepperell Mill is buzzing with tattooed millennials and baby boomers alike, moving fluidly among shelves of fabrics and rows of machines. With a promise to create quality jobs, Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s workforce exemplifies a commitment to American-made, sustainable products manufactured with the highest level of efficiency and precision.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear was established seven years ago by brothers Mike and Dan St. Pierre out of necessity for a durable, lightweight product for their own adventures. After about a year of prototyping and testing various products in a family camp, they officially launched the company  in Biddeford’s Pepperell Mill with aspirations of developing a superior product for both outdoor enthusiasts and everyday backpack-wearers. Now, after six years and three expansions in the mill, Hyperlite Mountain Gear employs 37 individuals, has multiple job openings, and anticipates a staff numbering 45 by the end of 2017’s first quarter.

Biddeford’s historic Pepperell Mill, established in the 1840’s sprawling along the Saco River, was a primary location for textile manufacturing for over a century. Thousands of people moved to Biddeford to secure jobs at the mill, and many made careers of their textile work in the growing urban community. Though the rich textile history of Pepperell Mill has waned significantly, the St. Pierre’s see growth in Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s future at the mill.

Where many manufacturing startups make the transition from cottage industry production to internationally exported manufacturing, Hyperlite Mountain Gear has held true to its “hand-built in America” motto and keeps production completely in-house. “We can’t use products that have mistakes. With a small inventory hold, we can make changes in production, when necessary, happen in real-time. Keeping production in-house is a necessity if we want to provide the highest quality for consumers,” said Mike.

“You hit brick walls all the time and you have to consistently figure out how to jump over them or knock them down. And to be a successful entrepreneur, that drive to push on has to be in your DNA.” -Mike St. Pierre, CEO, Hyperlite Mountain Gear (pictured above)

From CAD programming to cutting and stitching, the committed craftspeople of Hyperlite Mountain Gear have all gone through thorough job-specific training. Regardless of experience, all production workers train alongside seasoned employees for anywhere from two to four months. Because of the technical fibers used in the company’s gear, precision sewing, manufacturing, and quality control are paramount in Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s production model.

After several years of approaching CEI for financing, Mike and Dan St. Pierre (CEO and CFO) sealed the deal in 2016 with a $250,000 investment from CEI Ventures.

“Mike and Dan are incredibly committed to building a sustainable business through continuous improvement, employee engagement, and financial control.  I am thoroughly impressed by their understanding of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear core user and their ability to design and create winning, high quality products.” –Chandler Jones, Principal, CEI Ventures

While the St. Pierre’s have faced challenges in every area of business ownership and production, they embody the quality of a true entrepreneur: a motivation to continuously persevere.

“Any good entrepreneur needs to have a singular focus or vision, and a willingness to solve any problem that comes your way. You need to have passion in the product and continually push forward.”

–Dan St.Pierre, CFO, Hyperlite Mountain Gear

High performance textile companies like Hyperlite Mountain Gear are mixing innovative technologies with traditional practices to revitalize the local Biddeford community as well as the US-made textile industry.

 

Pika Energy

Clean Energy Manufacturing

26384373004_b4451318cb_hCEI Ventures, Inc., the for-profit venture capital subsidiary of CEI, announces the initial closing of its fourth fund, Coastal Ventures IV, and the fund’s first investment in Pika Energy, Inc. This investment in the clean energy manufacturer advances CEI’s socially responsible fund portfolio.

Coastal Ventures IV held its initial closing of $7.2 million in December 2015 with a targeted capitalization of $25 million. The fund targets job creation for people with low incomes and socially beneficial products and services.

Westbrook, Maine-based Pika Energy, founded in 2010 by MIT-trained engineers, manufactures solar and wind products using a patented bus that acts as an “energy operating system” to automate the flow of clean power. The company, which has won five Department of Energy awards, recently announced its new product line that enables simplified solar-plus-battery configurations for clean backup power and energy arbitrage.

16793511437_ececa30f89_h“Pika Energy uses U.S.-based manufacturing to make environmentally beneficial products, and is an excellent example of a company furthering the values and mission of the Coast Ventures IV LP fund.”

–Nat Henshaw, President of CEI Ventures

Ben Polito, co-founder and CEO of Pika Energy added, “It’s thrilling to be working with Coastal Ventures, a firm that shares our vision for making renewable energy affordable, attractive and mainstream.”

From Foreclosure to Home Recovery

CEI Housing Counseling

“CEI is here to help people like me get back on our feet. My home did not become part of the foreclosure statistics of Maine.”–Karen Griffin, CEI Housing Counseling client

One month after a divorce, Karen Griffin was served foreclosure papers on her Swan’s Island home, a financial burden that seemed too great to overcome. Although filing for bankruptcy looked like the only option, Griffin was determined to find another solution.

She first reached out to the State of Maine Consumer Protection Agency, which referred her to CEI. She quickly learned that government programs existed to help save her home from foreclosure.

The process began with a tremendous amount of paperwork, much of which was unfamiliar to Karen. After gathering months of financial statements, payroll stubs, and income status forms, she filed for mediation to help the process move forward. Mediation provided a vehicle for Karen’s voice to be heard, with assistance from a representative of the State of Maine, and CEI Housing Counseling & Education Director Jason Thomas.

“That entire year I stayed in limbo just doing everything I was asked to do, but living in a state of not knowing what the end result would be. Jason not only helped me assemble the paperwork, but he was on the other end of the phone when I gave in to fear and confusion as to why CitiMortgage would not make a decision,” said Karen.

Over a year after being served foreclosure papers, Karen was approved for a temporary plan requiring her to make three mortgage trial payments before final approval. During the payment period, Jason counseled her through legal struggles regarding signatures and ownership. Jason also advised her to return to a full time job as a civil service work as she continued to make mortgage payments beyond the trial period. After over 17 months, Karen received a letter stating that she was no longer in foreclosure.

“This is not a handout by any stretch,” said Karen. “CEI and Jason Thomas were invaluable in this endeavor. Very little is available to the individual American when dealing with large banks and corporations. The fact I am now making a $1,419 mortgage payment for a home that I did not want to lose through bankruptcy is a testament to the fact I was not looking for handout–just help and guidance to save my home. It took a whole lot more than the [federal] Making Home Affordable program to make this happen. That was the door, and the CEI team that got me through.”

“While each homeowner’s situation and challenge is unique, Karen’s story is one that has been all too familiar in the years since the housing crisis,” said CEI’s Jason Thomas. “Servicers and banks unprepared for the great numbers of people that rightfully seek assistance often had cases ‘fall through the cracks’ and become elongated beyond all reasonable expectation. While many national lenders would try to assuage borrowers’ fears, it’s much easier said than done to simply ‘relax’ when it’s your own home under threat of foreclosure. Our constant hope is that we can assist Maine homeowners in navigating what can be a challenging and confusing process at a very stressful time in their lives.”

The McLellan

Constructing a New Vision for Senior Living

Communities throughout Maine, the oldest state in the nation, are facing the growing challenge of caring for aging populations. Mainers also possess a can-do spirit and take pride in caring for their own. As a critical care nurse for over 30 years, Amy McLellan witnessed first hand the independent spirit of her older patients and what it takes to keep people healthy and happy as they grow older. This knowledge soon turned into a passion for redefining senior living. When the former Skofield House in Brunswick became available for purchase, Amy jumped at the chance to turn her vision into reality.

Amy McLellan with a blueprint for the future

Amy McLellan with a blueprint for the future

“I had the passion, I had found the building, but CEI gave the project a heartbeat. [Women’s Business Center Director] Sarah Guerette asked me the tough questions. Sometimes they discouraged me, but mostly, they helped me to raise the bar on running a small business. With each question from Sarah I found the answer and together we brought The McLellan to life.”–Amy McLellan, RN, owner of The McLellan         

Nestled in the heart of Brunswick, home to Bowdoin College and a vibrant and walkable downtown, The McLelllan is billed as an alternative senior living facility with 18 creatively-designed residences encouraging residents to “live better” in every moment.

With the help of CEI’s Sarah Guerette, Loan & Investment Officer Mark Jennings, and SVP of Lending & Investment John Egan, Amy developed a business and financial plan to purchase and renovate the property. In addition to connecting Amy with other professionals who provided legal, marketing, and funding support, the Women’s Business Center at CEI has continued to weigh in on issues from permitting to publicity. Financing for the project was provided through a loan from CEI, and an SBA 504 loan from Norway Savings Bank and Granite State Development Corporation.

“It’s always so much fun to work with a client who is moving ahead at lightning speed, driven by her passion for the project,” said Sarah Guerette. “Amy has demonstrated tireless perseverance through the process of planning, permitting, financing and renovating thus far, and I’m sure the best is yet to come.”

The McLellanThe McLellan is currently under renovation and is scheduled to open in Spring 2017. With a focus on attracting and catering to an active senior population, The McLellan offers an on-site dining room and pub with available prepared meals, a cinema, workout facility, gardens, and many common areas including a library room.

For more information about The McLellan, please visit www.themclellan.com or email info@mclellan.com.

SunRaise, LLC

District-Wide Solar Energy Production in New Hampshire

SunRaise LLC, solar energy investors and developers, recently partnered with CEI and Camden National Bank to finance a series of four rooftop solar arrays on public schools in Rochester, NH.

ms-construction-9-10-2016

Rochester Middle School solar array

“Coastal Enterprises Inc. has been constantly supportive and understanding of our business needs as SunRaise has grown over the past three years. In the last 6 months, it has been a pleasure working with John Egan and the entire team at CEI on the Rochester School District Solar Project. Knowing that the team at CEI was just one email or call away provided us the confidence to execute this transaction, and continue our mission of bringing low-cost solar power to schools and municipalities across the NorthEast.”–Bobby Lambert, VP of Finance, SunRaise Investments LLC

These solar installations will be owned and managed by SunRaise for 20 years, and the school district will purchase energy produced by the arrays at a discounted rate. This community partnership aims to offset energy costs and implement more renewable energy in the community.

EterNav

Solutions for Navigating one of Life's Toughest Challenges

CEI Small Business Development (SBDC) client Kasey Smith, founder of EterNav, has been making headlines in Maine, both as an awardee of the Maine Technology Institute’s Seed Grant and Tech Start Grant, and as a competitor in this season’s televised Greenlight Maine competition. Both Ann McAlhany and Betty Egner, Business Advisors for the Maine SBDC at CEI, have been an integral part of the EterNav advisory team.

Intern Ethan Roney and owner Kasey Smith of EterNav

Intern Ethan Roney and owner Kasey Smith of EterNav

EterNav (short for eternal navigation) brings new technology and support to families faced with the unexpected passing of a loved one, offering more affordable, personalized and convenient bereavement solutions. Smith’s background in technology startups and personal experiences dealing with loss, led her to see great need for modern 21st century technical tools and a step by step process to navigate the practical tasks and action steps that follow the loss of a loved one. This became the impetus for EterNav, a system that assembles all the elements needed for a funeral, whether the family elects to work with a funeral home or not. EterNav’s easy to use, online software lets families honor their loved one with a dignified and respectful funeral of their choosing, that doesn’t break the bank.

“Today’s consumer demands change,” Says Smith. “Currently, those faced with unexpected loss do not have access to the right information when needed, or access to the numerous choices that are available to them. EterNav is about transparency and our technology gives control of this very personal process, back to the family.”

Smith first came to CEI seeking overall business mentoring, which she found in Betty Egner.

“Betty has connected me with vitally needed resources from market validation to high quality human resources that were key to taking this business from a dream to reality. This kind of attention to business needs has allowed me to always be moving forward. Betty has put me in the position of using my best strengths and shown me ways to not get stuck in the process. This elevated view has been a difference maker.”
–Kasey Smith, founder of EterNav

Ann McAlhany’s vast experience with the tech world was an invaluable resource in assembling the many pieces necessary for her complex tech start-up company. Her expertise especially leveraged MTI funding programs for EterNav. McAlhany’s technical support helped Smith get through a detailed proposal process by keeping her focused and prepared. “What Ann is doing in helping technology based businesses is desperately needed in our state,” says Smith.

Kasey Smith (in black) at the Upstart Maine Center for Entrepreneurship presentation.

Kasey Smith (in black) at the Upstart Maine Center for Entrepreneurship presentation.

To date, Smith has acted as the personal loss advocate for nearly 100 families. From the time EterNav was incorporated in 2013, to its launch in 2016, 2 full-time and 3 part-time jobs have been created. Maine Technology Institute has just awarded her both a Seed Grant and Tech Start Grant, totaling over $28,000. Watch for Smith’s Greenlight Maine episode 8 premier Saturday, November 19th, as she competes for $100,000 funding.

“I believe this client will change the world for those experiencing loss.”–Betty Egner, Business Advisor at Maine Small Business Development Center at CEI