August 6, 2010

Sharing the secrets of their success

Maine-based entrepreneurs gather in Falmouth to tell their stories and get tips on how to grow their businesses.

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

FALMOUTH - Amy Ireland is betting that a bite-sized snack laced with nutritional benefits will surpass all the other energy bars on the market.

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Steven Bazinet, president of the Maine Center for Enterprise Development, left, speaks with Tony Perkins, an attorney for Bernstein Shur, center, and entrepreneur Amy Ireland at the Top Gun program Thursday in Falmouth.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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To read about the Top Gun class of 2010, go to www.mcedtopgun.biz/graduates.

But like the other "Top Gun" entrepreneurs who got a chance to introduce their products Thursday night, a lot will depend on Ireland's ability to skillfully market Zumbitz to a broader audience.

She already has a slogan for her product: "Feed your fun."

Ireland, a former Nordic ski coach who has skied cross country competitively, said, "The inspiration for Zumbitz came from my experiences as a coach and an athlete. I had eaten one too many energy bars that did not give me an energy boost. I realized that, above everything else, taste matters. It has to taste good and provide you with energy."

Ireland, whose business, Zum Sport, is based in Yarmouth, was one of 11 entrepreneurs who took part in the second annual Top Gun presentation, at The Woodlands Club in Falmouth.

The Top Gun program is sponsored by the Maine Center for Enterprise Development, a nonprofit organization based in Portland.

Top Gun teaches entrepreneurs what they need to know to run a successful business. It taps into a pool of more than four dozen mentors who have experience in a wide range of professions.

Steven N. Bazinet, president and executive director of the Maine Center for Enterprise Development, said the goal is to nurture local companies that will keep their business in Maine.

"It's all about making connections," he said. "Tonight, we are trying to create a buzz about these entrepreneurs."

Tony Perkins, who is Ireland's chief mentor, is an attorney with Bernstein Shur. He said, "There is an amazing talent level in Maine, but sometimes it is hidden away. A lot of these companies are flying way below the radar."

After Thursday's presentations, these entrepreneurs will have no excuses for being anonymous.

Beth V. George, a lawyer who founded Spelt Right Baking of Yarmouth in 2007 with her husband, Timothy Kane, said she would like to expand her company, so she approached Top Gun for advice.

Spelt Right makes bagels, pizza dough and breads that George says are kosher certified, vegan and allergy-friendly -- the baked products don't contain common wheat, nuts, soy, corn or dairy.

"What we are finding is that there is a large market for people with food sensitivities," said George, whose products can be found at Hannaford supermarkets and Whole Foods markets.

Another Top Gun, Adrianne Zahner of Portland, founded Turtle Love Co. in 2008.

Turtle Love is an online retailer of artisan jewelry, with a focus on wedding and engagement rings.

Zahner said that featuring jewelry online lets her tell the story of the artisans and the materials they use to make the jewelry.

"Our products are unique. They're not what you can get at the mall," she said. "Nobody is doing what we are doing."

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

 

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