Dove Tail Bats, LLC

Big League Manufacturing in Maine

In the small town of Shirley Mills, in Piscataquis County, a manufacturing business 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.

Paul Lancisi, Owner of Dove Tail Bats

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. In 2016, the business doubled its production to keep up with production demand. The addition of a split billet mill enables the purchase and use of locally grown wood. New customers include MLB players 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.

Dickson 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

Hyperlite Mountain Gear

Built from the ground up by brothers Mike and Dan St. Pierre, Hyperlite Mountain Gear has created a brand that exemplifies a commitment to American-made, sustainable products.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear was established seven years ago by brothers Mike and Dan St. Pierre, who wanted to create durable, lightweight gear for their own adventures. After about a year of prototyping and testing in a family camp, they officially launched the company  in Biddeford’s Pepperell Mill with aspirations of developing unique products for 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.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear at Biddeford’s Pepperell Mill

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,” said Mike. “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.”

“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)

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. 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.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear

“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, Karen 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 worker 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 experiencing major demographic shifts as populations age. Mainers also possess an independent spirit and take pride in caring for their own. As a critical care nurse for over 30 years, Amy McLellan witnessed first hand the “can-do” attitude of her older patients and what it takes to keep people healthy and happy as they grow older. This knowledge soon turned into a commitment to 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 McLellan

The McLellan facility in Brunswick

The 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

Kasey Smith, founder of EterNav, has been making headlines in Maine 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. Kasey’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,” said Kasey. “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.”

Kasey 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 Kasey 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,” said Kasey.

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, Kasey 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

Natural Fitness

Over 10 Years of Specialized Wellness Training in Portland

In a time when the doors of aspiring fitness gyms open and close regularly, Natural Fitness has proven the test of time and success. Joe de Silva, owner of Natural Fitness, has worked with CEI’s business counselors and lending department for over a decade, to develop, establish, and grow his business. “I would not be here today if CEI hadn’t helped me out,” said Joe.

Joe de Silva working with a young client at EVO Rock Gym

Joe de Silva working with a young client at EVO Rock Gym

After working for 3 years as an independent contractor at a local gym, Joe de Silva decided that it was time to go on his own.  He first came to CEI as the sole owner of Natural Fitness, needing startup money.

“I tried every bank to get a loan. You can only get rejected so many times. Nobody would lend to me. CEI took a chance on a 27 year-old when no one else would.”— Joe de Silva, Owner

A CEI business advisor helped Joe develop a business plan and counseled him through establishing a budget and projections. “CEI taught me how to think about how to run a business.” Next, he worked closely with loan officer Mark Jennings.

Joe de Silva, owner, of Natural Fitness on Presumpscot St.

Joe de Silva, owner of Natural Fitness, at his gym located on Presumpscot St.

“CEI looks at the person, not just the bank statements. Mark believed in what I’m doing. CEI backed me up,” said Joe.

Natural Fitness serves as a private training gym which offers gym membership to existing clients. “We create an environment for the body to heal itself,” said Joe, when describing the training he provides. Whether working with individuals who are recovering post-rehab, the elderly who want to strengthen and improve their wellness, or people with specific medical concerns, one-on-one or small group training takes a proactive approach to health, versus a reactive approach.  Each client receives a personalized assessment and program designed specifically for his or her needs.

Years later, when Joe’s clientele was growing and the business was expanding, he decided to relocate to Natural Fitness’s current location on Presumpscot St. The move posed some financial challenges, but CEI was able to support the expansion of Joe’s business by refinancing in the midst of transitions. “They made it easy for me to get what I needed.” Today, Joe continues to serve the greater Portland area through training, building relationships with his clients, and educating others about wellness.

Illuminated Me by Sharon Herrick

Local Handcrafted Jewelry with a Global Connection

Sharon Herrick’s passion for beauty and for social change converge in her Portland, Maine-based jewelry business, Illuminated Me by Sharon Herrick. Sharon sources materials locally, designs and crafts each piece by hand, and is committed to hiring artisans who have arrived in Maine as immigrants or refugees. A diverse range of professional experience in media and social justice informs Sharon’s approach to building her community-engaged business.

photo courtesy of KColette

Herrick working in her studio. Photo courtesy KColette.

Sharon contacted CEI after hearing about services offered by the Women’s Business Center, and now works closely with business advisor Sarah Guerette. “Sarah was very helpful in guiding our pricing structure, market research, peer networking and continuing education, among many other things as we refine and grow,” she said.

After about a year of working with the Women’s Business Center, Herrick had constructed a growing business. With more work than ever, she was introduced to the Portland Jobs Alliance to help her find an employee.

“My three year business plan always included hiring individuals new to Maine who were artisans in their home country. Partnering with the Portland Jobs Alliance brought my plan to fruition in just 6 months.”-Sharon Herrick, Owner, Illuminated Me

Nabaa working in precious metal.

Nabaa working in precious metal

The Portland Jobs Alliance, supported by CEI’s Workforce Development Program, works to connect immigrants and refugees with quality jobs in Portland that suit their specific skill sets. Herrick was introduced to Nabaa, a professional artist, certified Interior Designer, master cake baker and former business owner from Baghdad.

The Portland Jobs Alliance provided the opportunity for Herrick to bring on Nabaa for a fully-funded preliminary training period, as well as cover Nabaa’s childcare costs. Herrick was subsequently delighted to hire Nabaa full-time. “As a highly skilled and educated artisan, Nabaa has helped me launch new products, feel comfortable with making delivery deadlines and allow me to work on my business infrastructure and grow my business.” Herrick took Naaba’s employment even further by not only bringing her into the business, but integrating her into the community. They are often seen together at artisan events around Portland.

Nabaa and Sharon Herrick

Nabaa and Sharon Herrick

“There are so many small business educational and network opportunities in Portland, Maine. I love how organizations like CEI partner with SCORE, SBDC, and others. This open communication between organizations has given me a solid team of experienced entrepreneurs and corporate business consultants to help me grow my business.”

–Sharon Herrick, Owner, Illuminated Me

Learn more: Women’s Business Center at CEI and the Portland Jobs Alliance.