There was a lot of lobster news last week, with a Gulf of Maine Research Institute forecast calling for an early start to the 2016 season, and the state posting a record $495 million lobster catch last year.

But for the fourth month in a row, the strong U.S. dollar has sparked a decline in U.S. exports, according to an Associated Press report. In January, exports fell 2.1 percent to $176.5 billion, the lowest since June 2011. How are Maine lobster exports faring? Pretty well.

According to WISERTrade, the international research firm that tracks exports and imports using U.S. Census trade data, Maine’s exports overall dipped about 6 percent in January compared with the same month a year ago. But for lobster specifically, global exports in January were up 39 percent, to $9.27 million, from $6.68 million in January 2015.

The most striking increase was in live lobster sales to China, which doubled from $856,000 in January 2015 to $1.8 million this January.

Despite its economic woes, it appears China’s rising middle class has developed a taste for Maine’s favorite crustacean.

It’ll be interesting to see February export data. The Chinese New Year was celebrated Feb. 8.

Stay tuned.

SHOWER POWER

A Portland entrepreneur’s compelling story of how he launched his unique mobile shower unit is featured in the most recent U.S. Small Business Association National Resource Guide.

The guide lists the resources available from the SBA, and also presents stories of 10 entrepreneurs who have used SBA resources successfully, including Zachary Schmesser, founder of New England Mobile Showers.

Schmesser was helping to manage a seven-day bicycling tour in Maine when he realized that many small towns didn’t have the capacity to provide showers for the 200-300 cyclists participating in the tour. That sparked the idea to buy a portable shower trailer and transport it to sports events, disaster sites, festivals, construction sites and other outdoor places where a lot of people need access to showers. But Schmesser couldn’t get a commercial loan.

He sought help from the SBA’s Small Business Development Center’s John Entwistle, who helped Schmesser refine his business plan and revise his market analysis. He also directed him toward a Libra Foundation’s Future Fund grant, money the foundation sets aside to help young entrepreneurs.

In 2014, Schmesser got a bank loan and the Libra grant and bought a 16-shower portable trailer, launching New England Mobile Showers. He tips his cap to Entwistle.

“Without (him), I wouldn’t have known about the bank I eventually ended up receiving the loan from, and I would have never heard about the (local grant).”

Schmesser, 29, says in the SBA feature that the company expects to double business in 2016 and is making its first new hire this year.

SUITABLE SPELLERS

We know business people are good with numbers, but can they spell?

That question will be answered Tuesday night when some of the state’s most prominent business leaders will do their best in a spelling bee to raise money for charity.

Among the contestants: Bill Williamson, Maine president of Bank of America; developer Jim Brady; Daryl Cady, CEO of Southern Maine Hospice; Winxnet CEO Chris Claudio; Liz Cotter Schlax of United Way Greater Portland; Michael Bourque, a senior vice president at MEMIC; Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling; and eight other notables.

The Corporate Charity Spelling Bee will be held at the Portland House of Music. The free event, sponsored by the Portland Press Herald and Dead River Co., sets the stage for the annual Scripps Spelling Bee for middle-schoolers that gets underway in Maine on March 16.

In the corporate bee, business leaders donate $100 and designate a charity. All entry fees are donated to the winning speller’s charity.

I haven’t seen any trash talk on the event’s Facebook page, but Publisher Lisa DeSisto, who is co-hosting the bee, tells me that Chris Claudio, Michael Bourque and Liz Cotter-Schlax all claim to have won spelling bees during middle school. (“This cannot be verified via LinkedIn,” however, she notes.)

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. The bee starts at 5:45. All attendees are promised F-U-N.

Carol Coultas, business editor, can be contacted at 791-6460 or at:

[email protected]