SOUTH PORTLAND — Southern Maine Community College will host its first-ever “Launch or Grow” Small Business Success Conference on Jan. 25, featuring area business leaders sharing their expertise on everything from funding to branding.

The conference, sponsored by SMCC’s Entrepreneurial Center, will feature two tracks. One will focus on helping entrepreneurs start a small business, the other on advising small business owners on how to grow their existing enterprise. The day will also feature a “shark tank,” where conference attendees can pitch their business ideas to a panel of experts for feedback.

“SMCC has prepared thousands of Mainers for work force success, whether they earn a business degree and found their own company or gain practical skills through programs including culinary, pre-engineering, horticulture, computer technology and more,” said SMCC President Ron Cantor. “We created this ‘Launch or Grow’ conference to further support Maine’s economy by reaching out to that critical engine of growth, the entrepreneur.”

The keynote speakers at the daylong conference are brothers John and Brendan Ready, Cape Elizabeth natives and founders of Ready Seafood and Catch a Piece of Maine. The Ready brothers will speak about how they launched their business right out of college, and the path they’ve taken to grow successfully.

Other speakers include Bob Johnson, owner of Scratch Bakery in South Portland; business lawyer Zeke Callanan; Nat Henshaw of Coastal Enterprises Inc.; financing expert Chris Speh; Don Gooding of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development; business coach Dange Vespignani; author Tam Veilleux; Bitzy Baby founders Whitney and Seabren Reeves; business coach Mandy Schumaker; motivational speaker Jim Bouchard; and Angela Helton of Northeast Media Associates.

Session topics include “Bringing a Product to Market,” “Networking like a Pick-up Artist,” “Getting Funding” and “Staying Small or Going Big.”

THE COST for the conference is $50; $25 for SMCC students and alumni. For more information, visit html.

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