HOULTON – After a 5-month, 3-phase process, three winners have emerged in the 2017 Houlton Entrepreneur Challenge. Shiretown Stoves and Outdoor Living, Green Minnow Media and Raising The Bar will share over $35,000 in prizes including forgivable loans and incentives from program partners.
Shiretown Stoves and Outdoor Living is a new store being opened by Matt Donahue on Bangor Street. The retail outlet will sell wood, pellet, electric and gas stoves including installation and service. Other products available will be outdoor living fireplaces, outdoor kitchens and stamping on concrete patios. They will also be selling and installing pools.
Green Minnow Media is a new business owned by Steve Milligan who moved to Houlton with his wife who, is originally from the area. It is a full-service advertising agency that will provide personalized service for radio, tv, print material, web site, social media and other creative services. Green Minnow also does video production, VFX and web development as well as a unique service of providing 3D animation.
Raising The Bar will be a fitness business operated by Michelle Sprague that will affiliate with CrossFit. Sprague, who is CrossFit Level 1 certified, will offer classes, private training, nutrition discussions and support. The location for the business is anticipated to be on North Street and will be well equipped with some retail items available. There will be a focus on each individual client’s journey with health and wellness.
In selecting three winners, the Selection Committee determined they had a unique opportunity to assist 3 business dreams to become a reality. The three finalists have very different business models each with very specific needs to bring their ideas to fruition. They are all enterprises that will complement the existing business mix. Each of the businesses has the ability to expand and prosper in Houlton and are anticipated to be long lasting operations.
All three winners will receive forgivable loans for amounts based on their specific needs. Donated services from program partners are also being awarded. Included in their packages, Shiretown Stoves and Outdoor Living will receive funding for signage, computers and equipment for the new store; while Green Minnow Media will receive funding for an upgraded computer and specialized 3D and production software; and Raising The Bar will receive funding for equipment, franchise fees and initial rent.
“The caliber of contestants in this year’s Entrepreneur Challenge was excellent!” stated Nancy Ketch, Houlton Community Development Director. “The Selection Committee narrowed the field down to three exceptional finalists and deliberated a long time before deciding on the winners,” she added. “The generosity of our partners allowed us an increased pool of funds that was large enough to help all three businesses,” said SADC Executive Director Jon McLaughlin. He continued saying, “as deliberations continued, the committee rallied around the opportunity to assist all three well-deserving contestants in an impactful way. They each had their strengths and weaknesses, but overall the rankings were quite even.”
Upon learning of the win, Matt Donahue said, “I really appreciate the assistance and I’m looking forward to getting the store open for people to come in and see the stoves”. Steve Milligan added, “I am so excited … the challenge has been a great experience … and, I look forward to creating employment opportunities right here in Houlton.” “I am beyond thankful,” expressed Michelle Sprague, also stating, “I am grateful for the entire process.”
The Houlton Entrepreneur Challenge is a collaborative effort of the Town of Houlton and the Southern Aroostook Development Corporation with major financial support from Machias Savings Bank. There were also several other financial partners including Houlton Water Company, Buildings Etcetera, F.A. Peabody Company, J. McLaughlin Construction, MMG Insurance, S.W. Collins Company and York’s of Houlton. Business partners that provided prizes for the program included Severson, Hand & Nelson, WHOU, Davis, Gates & Alward, The Idea Factory, OTT and Pioneer Broadband.
The program is designed to be an innovative approach to business recruitment and retention. It is a way to assist new or expanding businesses with expenses while also providing basic business knowledge and guidance in developing a business plan.
Chris Fitzpatrick, Executive Vice President of Business Banking for Machias Savings Bank said, “Machias Savings Bank has a history of supporting businesses as well as community projects. The Houlton Entrepreneur Challenge presented a unique opportunity for us to do both. We were happy to be the major financial partner in this exciting endeavor.”
Further information on the Houlton Entrepreneur Challenge is available on the Town’s web site at www.houlton-maine.com or SADC’s web site at www.sadcaroostook.org. Information is also available by calling Ketch at 207-521-5938 or McLaughlin at 207-521-0157.
About Town of Houlton, SADC and Machias Savings Bank:
The Town of Houlton’s Community Development Department is charged with working with area businesses and assisting creating opportunities for business growth in the Town of Houlton. Houlton is the Shiretown of Aroostook County. The Town of Houlton has a population of over 6,000 and is the service community for the Southern portion of Aroostook County as well as parts of Northern Penobscot and Northern Washington Counties. More details about the Town of Houlton can be found online at www.houlton-maine.com.
Southern Aroostook Development Corporation (SADC) is an economic enhancement organization founded in 1998 to develop and expand the economic base of Southern Aroostook County. SADC gathers business and community leaders from throughout the area to work together to help coordinate, promote and guide new business creations. More details about Southern Aroostook Development Corporation can be found online at www.sadcaroostook.org.
Machias Savings Bank is a Maine bank with 19 branches from Portland to Caribou. Based in Machias since 1869, Machias Savings Bank prides itself on exceptional banking, exceptional relationships, and exceptional customer service. More details about Machias Savings Bank can be found online at www.machiassavings.com.