Bixby & Co., LLC, a Women’s Business Center at CEI client, and exemplary “triple bottom line” startup company, creates chocolates from all natural or organic ingredients, free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and additives. Kate McAleer, entrepreneur and co-founder of Bixby & Co, brought Bixby Bars from New York State to Coastal Farms in Belfast, Maine, and in March, settled in Rockland.
“Kate and I identified potential partners, resources, and research that can help Bixby & Co.’s growth trajectory. We also examined methods of stimulating online sales while decreasing production costs,” said Ruth Cash-Smith, Certified Business Counselor with the Maine Women’s Business Center at CEI, who has worked with Kate since 2013.
Bixby & Co. is now one of five finalists in the Gorham Savings Bank Launchpad Competition. One hundred and thirty Maine entrepreneurs submitted an application to LaunchPad, and an independent panel of judges reviewed each submission. Last week, twelve semifinalists competed for public votes in order to make it to the finals. Now, Kate and four others will pitch their ideas at a live event on April 10 to compete for a $30,000 prize.
As she prepares for the competition, we asked Kate about her experience as a Women’s Business Center client.
What brought you to CEI? Was there a specific problem you were trying to solve?
I connected to CEI at the Maine Business Conference when one of the counselors came by my booth. As our business began to grow, it has been terrific to be able to consult with a seasoned lending advisor about the progress we are making, discuss our next steps and have a dialogue. Ruth is very supportive and full of encouragement with sound advice.
How did CEI business counseling/counselors help you?
We are able to discuss the execution of our business plan and how to surmount obstacles as they arise. The counseling provides in-depth knowledge on grant funds and how to apply for them. Ruth assists me in navigating and selecting the appropriate programs and financing vehicles that will help my business. She has been very helpful connecting us with the right people and institutions.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about launching a startup in Maine?
We have found the business atmosphere in Maine to be quite supportive and nurturing. The resources available to entrepreneurs at every level are good. In particular, resources for the early stage of development are strong and provide proper guidance. Programs such as Top Gun not only offer educational programs, but mentors to guide you along in particular areas such as technology, manufacturing, etc., where your business may need expert advice.
Postscript: Kate did indeed win the Launchpad competition. Here she is (below) with Ruth Cash-Smith and a giant check for $30,000!