Earning Top Honors: SBA Awards Four CEI Clients as Entrepreneurial Leaders

Of the eleven winners of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2019 Maine Small Business Awards, four worked with CEI to plan and finance their growing enterprises. They are Ahmed Abbas of Ameera Bread in Portland, Rebecca and Troy Delano of Alfred’s Upholstery & Co. in Alfred, Kathleen O’Heron of Jynx Productions in Yarmouth and Amber Elliott of Alternative Wellness Services in Biddeford.

CEI’s 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 portfolio represent a diverse variety of businesses:

Maine Small Business Manufacturer of the Year
Rebecca and Troy Delano have owned Alfred’s Upholstery & Co., a high-end custom upholstery company known for custom furniture and stitchery since 1997. The business specializes in custom made furniture, window treatments, commercial booth seating, slipcovers and hand-crafted marine soft goods for high-end residential, marine and commercial markets. One of the factors that distinguishes Alfred’s is its application of technology to a very old and traditional art form. Rebecca and Troy have worked with several CEI professionals including the Women’s Business Center on planning and projections, the lending group to help cover the costs of moving to a larger facility, to purchase new equipment, and hire more staff. They also worked with CEI’s Workforce Solutions Department to address employee retention and hiring.

Maine Minority Owned Small Business of the Year
Ahmed Abbas arrived in the United States in 2012 as a refugee from Iraq. Unable to secure a job to use his engineering degree, Ahmed found work at a Portland bakery and restaurant. He quickly learned the business and when the owner was ready to sell, Ahmed was able to buy it, with help from CEI and its StartSmart business advisory for immigrants. With the new name Ameera Bread, Ahmed has grown the business, developing a new wholesale business, and entering new markets with new grocery customers and a second retail location. He cares for the community, often donating food to local hunger relief efforts. But perhaps most exciting, Ahmed has since become an American citizen.

Maine Small Business Exporter of the Year 
Television professionals, Kathleen O’Heron and Johannes Wiebus export ideas, images and entertainment. In 2005, they founded Jynx Productions in Yarmouth, producing documentaries for broadcast networks worldwide. With about 20 segments in the works at any given time – all in varying phases of production – crews from Jynx Productions are constantly traveling throughout the US to gather stories that give international viewers a unique window on American life. More recently, Jynx branched out with sports documentary projects for Red Bull in Austria, commercial projects for the World Bank Group, and a 60-minute documentary titled ‘Forever Young’ for German televisionKathleen worked with the Women’s Business Center at CEI to discuss issues of strategic growth; especially attracting and developing a quality workforce. Jynx has steadily grown over the past decade to a team of 9 full-time employees, attracting creative talent from Maine, Boston, New York and Germany.  Future growth plans include developing relationships with global brands who are looking for new ways to connect with their customers using authentic, documentary style storytelling.

Maine Woman Owned Small Business of the Year
Amber Elliott owns Alternative Wellness Services (AWS), a licensed behavioral health agency providing an array of quality supportive services to individuals and families in Southern and Central Maine. Their team of high-quality providers deliver case management,  counseling and in-home support services that help people learn skills to stay living independently in their community. Among their services is an independent living program for veterans suffering from moderate-to-severe brain injury, spinal cord injury, or neurological conditions. They also provide Personal Adjustment Counseling to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Additionally, AWS  is in the process of applying for a grant to offer an individualized, intensive vocational development program for adults who have a desire to enhance their vocational options despite the challenges of having a disability. No one understands the challenge more than Amber who herself is legally blind. Yet that hasn’t stopped her from growing AWS from a single office in Biddeford to expanding in Portland and Augusta, with 23 full time employees.  Amber is still recognizing community needs and is in the process of adding opioid health home services to the roster.

The Maine District Office of the Small Business Administration will recognize all of the 2019 Maine Small Business Award recipients at a celebration reception on May 15, 2019 at the Hilton Garden Inn, 5 Park Street in Freeport. 

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 www.ceimaine.org