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April 20, 2018

Celebrating a New Crop of Entrepreneurial Leaders: CEI Clients Win 2018 SBA Awards


April 19, 2018– Brunswick, ME Seven business leaders who have worked with CEI to plan and finance their enterprises are winners of the 2018 Maine Small Business Awards given by the U.S. Small Business Administration. They are: Heather Chandler, owner of The SunriseGuide, LLC of Portland; David Jacobson, David Jacobson Glass, LLC of Montville; Melissa Law, Benjamin Whalen, Abigail and Jeffrey Fisher, Bumbleroot Organic Farm, LLC of Windham; and Benjamin Okafor, Eastport Family Pharmacy.

CEI business advisors provide one-on-one, personalized advising services at no cost to current and potential business owners and managers in Maine through the Maine Small Business Development Center (Maine SBDC),the Women’s Business Center at CEI (WBC), and StartSmart, a program for entrepreneurs who immigrate to Maine. Business advisors at CEI have diverse educational and business experience.

The winning entrepreneurs from CEI’s business advising portfolio come from across the state:

Maine Young Entrepreneurs of the Year

Melissa Law, Benjamin Whalen, Abigail and Jeffrey Fisher, founders of Bumbleroot Organic Farm grew a two-acre farm in Buxton to 88 acres in South Windham with business advising and financing support from CEI. The 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. Sarah Guerette, Director of the Women’s Business Center (WBC) at CEI, worked closely with the Bumbleroot team during their expansion to a larger farm.

Maine and New England Micro-Enterprise of the Year

David Jacobson makes hand-blown and kiln-formed glass utilizing contemporary designs based in the Venetian tradition, mostly brightly colored functional objects: bowls, glasses, vases, platters, and sculptural objects. In 2013, with the help of CEI’s SBDC Advisor David Hill, David received a $100,000 loan from a New York City patron, and with the injection of $20,000 of personal capital, transformed his Montville barn into a fully equipped glass blowing studio. By building a multi-faceted business focused on blown-glass manufacturing, instruction, and hospitality, David has managed to persevere and thrive. Ever on the lookout for new and exciting business opportunities, David has learned new skills through a trip to Prague and the development of new products.

Maine Woman Owned Small Business of the Year

Since 2006, Heather Chandler has used the SunriseGuide to help Mainers expand their knowledge of sustainability across a broad spectrum of subject matters including food, health, energy choices, home life and more, while fueling the growth of the green economy in Maine. With support from the Women’s Business Center at CEI Heather has grown the business from a single product in 2006 (the annual green living guide and coupon book) to publishing three print publications, a mobile edition and a monthly e-newsletter/event listing.

The publication has made an impact on its readers:

  • 48% of readers said that the SunriseGuide helped them make healthier decisions for themselves and their families
  • 40% of readers said that the SunriseGuide has helped them learn ways to reduce their personal (or family’s) energy use and carbon footprint
  • 55% credited The SunriseGuide for helping them find greener options for products they were already going to buy.

Maine Minority Owned Small Business of the Year

Eastport Family Pharmacy owner Benjamin Okafor was named Maine Minority Small Business Owner of the Year. Originally from Nigeria, Ben worked as a pharmacist in London before he was recruited to work in Bangor. Driven to open his own pharmacy to support a rural Maine community with limited access to health care, Ben leased a 750-square-foot space to fill a need in this rural coastal community. Previously, residents had to drive almost 30 miles to fill prescriptions.  Committed to providing better service to his customers, Ben purchased and renovated a building right next door to the local health clinic two years ago. As a result he doubled the size of his operation, and installed a drive-up window, a popular feature with residents.  The pharmacy also offers free home deliveries within 25 miles. For the past three years, Ben has worked closely with Ruth Cash-Smith, Business Advisor with the WBC at CEI.

Maine Small Business Persons of the Year

In addition to providing advice to entrepreneurs, CEI also arranges a variety of capital solutions for new and growing companies. The SBA Maine Small Business Persons of the Year worked with CEI to arrange a startup loan and access workforce support when launching Sea Bags.

Sea Bags President Beth Shissler and its CEO Don Oakes have been selected as SBA’s Maine Small Business Persons of the Year and will represent the state in the competition for National Small Business Person of the Year. Portland-based Sea Bags is a designer and manufacturer of totes and accessories made from recycled sail cloth. Today Sea Bags has 13 company-owned stores, two offices and a warehouse facility. The SBA selected Sea Bags for their marquis award based on the continued growth of the business, and the support that the leadership team has shown for the small business community in Maine.

The Maine District Office of the Small Business Administration will recognize all of the 2018 Maine Small Business Award recipients at a reception and awards presentation at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 1st at the Harraseekett Inn in Freeport. For additional information about the reception please call 207-622-8551 or e-mail

About CEI

Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) helps to grow good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises, and shared prosperity in Maine and in rural regions across the country by integrating financing, business and industry expertise, and policy solutions. CEI envisions a world in which communities are economically and environmentally healthy, enabling all people, especially those with low incomes, to reach their full potential. More at

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