For the last year, I‘ve been working with great mentors from Portland SCORE to get the Little Red Sauna rolling. (Super thanks for the patience of Hank McCaffrey!) As a Maine-based entrepreneur looking to grow my business, I was thrilled to jump at the chance to apply and be accepted into Top Gun Maine. (Thanks to Maddie Purcell, founder of Fyood Kitchen in Portland for encouraging me to apply.)
Top Gun, a state-wide selective business incubator run by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs (MCE), is designed to accelerate entrepreneurial development with coaching and mentorship. Laurie Johnson, the Top Gun Program Manager, runs an organized and efficient five-month schedule. Since 2009, 83 companies have been through the program, and 90% of them are still active. This year a record 47 companies were selected. Ten of them are in the 2019 Top Gun Portland cohort.
Every week we get together for dinner. We practice our pitches, discuss strategies in marketing and fundrasing, and collaborate with other entrepreneurs. We have homework and meetings with our mentors during the week. Some of the start-ups are pre-revenue and are just getting off the ground like Little Red Sauna -- their energy and excitement are the most palatable. Other companies already have branding, loyal customers, and are looking to expand their business. The Portland group includes wonderful businesses including Tiny Homes of Maine, Bartlett Yarns, and Sticky Sweet. I love seeing many of the women-owned companies! (Shout out to Kim Koehler who has the dual role of being my business coach and working for MCE.)
By the end of the program, we will all give our pitch to an audience of business owners, investors, entrepreneurs, and the media at a regional pitch competition that will generate state semifinalists for the final MCE annual Top Gun Showcase in Portland. Both Maine Technology Institute and biotech entrepreneur David Shaw are providing a $25,000 prize. Which Top Gun finalist will win $25k in June?