The 2014 Entreverge winners: (from the left) Kai Smith and Sean Sullivan of Buoy Local, Erin Quigley and Zack Anchors of Portland Paddle in the back, Briana Warner from Maine Pie Line in the red dress, Patrick Roche of ThinkTank with the rainbow guitar strap, and Jasmine Clayton of Kurier on the far right.

The 2014 Entreverge winners: (from the left) Kai Smith and Sean Sullivan of Buoy Local, Erin Quigley and Zack Anchors of Portland Paddle in the back, Briana Warner from Maine Pie Line in the red dress, Patrick Roche of ThinkTank with the rainbow guitar strap, and Jasmine Clayton of Kurier on the far right.

More than 300 people turned out Thursday evening to support local entrepreneurs at this year’s Entreverge awards event, held in the grand ballroom of the new Westin Harborview hotel.

Entreverge is an annual awards program sponsored by PROPEL, the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce’s young professionals group, that seeks to recognize and reward burgeoning entrepreneurs and startups in the Greater Portland area. Each year, five local startups walk away with an electric guitar and free legal, financial and marketing services for their businesses. There were 45 nominees this year.

The Thursday evening event was also seen as a kick-off event for Maine Startup and Create Week, a week-long celebration of Maine’s entrepreneurs and innovators that will feature more than 100 speakers at events and panel discussions through June 20.

Michelle Neujahr, director of the entrepreneurial center at Southern Maine Community College, was the evening’s emcee. She said the dozens of nominations PROPEL received reflects the strength of Portland’s entrepreneurial community and the size of the evening’s crowd reflects the value the community sees in supporting its entrepreneurs.

“We live in an amazing place and kudos to you all for coming out and supporting local entrepreneurs,” she said.

This year’s winners are … Sean Sullivan and Kai Smith of Buoy Local, a startup that offers a buy-local gift card for area businesses; Jasmine Clayton, owner of Kurier, a retail business that sells locally handmade leather handbags; Briana Warner, owner of Maine Pie Line, a bakery in Portland that makes “pies like your mother never made;” Erin Quigley and Zack Anchors of Portland Paddle, which offers kayak tours of Casco Bay; and Patrick Roche of Think Tank, which operates co-working spaces in Portland and Yarmouth.

Erin Quigley, who last summer launched Portland Paddle with Zack Anchors, said that as an entrepreneur who often has her head down building a business, it’s nice to be recognized by the community.

“You work so hard and put so much time and energy into building your baby that sometimes you don’t know what’s going on or how you’re being received in the community,” Quigley said following the awards ceremony. “It does mean a lot to me to be recognized by the broader community of business people that we really respect and are doing good work.”

After the award winners, the story yesterday evening was all about the Portland community and the energy and support it offers to local entrepreneurs.

Neujahr said Portland’s entrepreneurial community is “on fire.”

“The entrepreneurial energy in Portland is electric — it’s contagious. I expect many new businesses to start up this year and existing businesses to take huge leaps,” she said.

Many of the Entreverge award winners thanked the community for the overwhelming support they’ve received during the process of launching their businesses.

“This is a community that cares about small business and we are so grateful,” Sean Sullivan, a Buoy Local co-founder, said in his remarks after accepting the award.

Kai Smith, the other Buoy Local co-founder, expanded on Sullivan’s remarks. He said a buy-local gift card business like Buoy Local is based on relationships and requires a community of people that care about each other. Portland has all that, and a network of programs to help entrepreneurs turn ideas into real businesses.

“It’s nice to have access to so many resources to grow a business like ours,” he said.

Jasmine Clayton, owner of Kurier, was working in the apparel industry at Jill McGowan before launching her own business in 2010 making leather handbags and other items and selling them online. She just opened her first bricks-and-mortar retail location last Friday on Congress Street near the State Theater.

“I think it’s nice to be recognized. I’ve lived in Portland for 20 years and I feel a part of this community,” she said. “Getting this award is not only a nice recognition of my business, but also makes clear that people want to shop local and buy things from people who are really making things and not just big conglomerates.”

There’s one thing all the winners have in common, Neujahr said. They were willing to step out, take risks and propel their ideas to reality. She encouraged the those in the crowd to do the same.

“I encourage you all to make the step toward what you’re standing on the edge of,” she said.

There was a sixth award presented Thursday night. The PROPEL board presented outgoing chair Nate Huckel-Bauer with an award for his service over the past two years as head of the board. Huckel-Bauer, an attorney at Drummond and Drummond, said he’s seen definite changes in the community over the past two years.

“I’ve seen growth in PROPEL, but also growth in the Portland area for these types of networking events,” he said, referring to other events where people come together to discuss and support small businesses and entrepreneurs. He cited the creation of events such as Gorham Savings Bank’s LaunchPad business plan competition; the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development’s Top Gun showcase event, which attracted nearly 300 people last week; and now Maine Startup and Create Week.

Jess Knox, statewide director of Blackstone Accelerates Growth and lead organizer of Maine Startup and Create Week, was standing with Huckel-Bauer. He added, “The good news is they all can survive. That’s the story.”