Born and raised in Maine, Graham Platner served eight years in the military, with four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, before landing a job in Afghanistan with the U.S. Department of State. He wasn’t sure he would ever come back to Maine. But, on one of his leaves, Platner connected with Jock Corrothers, owner of Waukeag Neck Oyster Co., an established aquaculture cooperative that began raising oysters in Frenchman’s Bay in 2012. Platner spent two weeks out on the water with Crothers, who was, himself, looking into the future. When the two weeks were up, Crothers asked Platner if he would like to be an oyster farmer. At the time, Platner couldn’t see a path forward. But he kept thinking about it.
“I went back to Afghanistan for six months and realized that I didn’t want to be there anymore,” says Platner. He returned to Maine, bought a boat and began to work alongside Crothers.
In early 2021, Platner reached out to the Maine SBDC for help growing his own business, Frenchman Bay Oyster Company. CEI Maine SBDC business advisor Peter Piconi worked closely with Platner to help him establish short- and long-term priorities, develop a solid business plan and build out financial projections. They confirmed that in order to expand, the new business needed financing. Piconi and Platner discussed options, did some research and found an opportunity through the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, whose mission is to help U.S. small businesses—especially those owned by people of color, women, and veterans and those in lower-income communities—find their footing in a challenging economy. With Piconi’s support, Platner applied for a grant and was awarded $20,000 for new oyster cages and farming equipment.
“Being able to come back to the place I grew up…after being away for a long time, has been made significantly easier by being able to work on the sea,” Platner says in a video produced by the Maine Aquaculture Association. “I believe aquaculture [is important to the future of] how we get food. Having a purpose in something I believe in helped me come back and find a place in Maine.”
Platner is committed to keeping good jobs and food local, boosting the local economy. And, as it turns out, his best customer happens to be his mom, Leslie Harlow, owner of Ironbound Restaurant & Inn in nearby Hancock. Follow Frenchman Bay Oyster Company on their Instagram page HERE to find out where you can track down their spectacular oysters.
Photos courtesy of Graham Platner, Frenchman Bay Oyster Company
Looking to Start or Grow Your Business?
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