Kate McAleer, the 27-year-old entrepreneur who sells better-for-you candy bars through her business Bixby & Co., has been named the 2015 Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Maine, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

McAleer said she was “thrilled and excited.”

“I hope that it continues to build awareness of our company and the products that we make,” she said. “I really see it as a marking of a lot of hard work and a lot of support within the state of Maine that has helped me come so far at a pretty rapid speed.”

McAleer has tapped into a number of resources for Maine entrepreneurs, including the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development’s Top Gun program and the Libra Future Fund. Last year, she won $30,000 through Gorham Savings Bank’s “Launchpad” competition.

McAleer started her candy business in her mother’s kitchen in December 2011. She moved Bixby & Co. to Maine in 2013 and now has eight full- and part-time employees. The company’s gluten-free, vegan-friendly organic chocolate bars, filled with nuts, spices and fruit, are handcrafted in an old ice plant in Rockland.

McAleer said the company has been experiencing 100 percent growth every year, and she hopes to have Bixby bars in 1,000 stores nationwide by the end of 2015.

The company’s latest flavor is called “Nutty For You” and is made with dark chocolate, peanut butter and Maine sea salt. McAleer said she wanted to create a bar that is accessible to a larger number of people, but also “hits that American flavor profile. Everyone in America likes chocolate and peanut butter.”

Also selected for SBA recognitions were Jaimie Logan, a governor’s account executive with the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, who was chosen to receive the Financial Services Champion award for Maine; Heidi V. Neal, owner of Loyal Biscuit Co., a pet product and service business in Rockland, who was chosen Maine’s Small Business Person of the Year; and Thomas Adams, owner of Maine Coast Shellfish LLC, who was chosen Maine’s Small Business Exporter of the Year.

Marilyn Geroux, the Small Business Administration district director for Maine, said the SBA is hosting a reception May 5 at the Augusta Country Club in Manchester to recognize the winners.

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CORRECTION: This story was updated at 6:40 p.m. on April 15, 2015, to correct the award that Kate McAleer received.


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