By all accounts, Maine’s second Startup & Create Week was a resounding success – more panels, more attendees, more connections. But so what? After the tents have folded and the performers have moved on, what will be the lasting effect on Maine’s fundamental economic problems?

In many ways, the events of the week constituted a giant pep rally – an excuse to stir up the passions of participants in a shared cause: “Go Black Bears, beat the Wildcats!”

But in this case, the passions are as diverse as the participants: new and better ways to increase energy savings, new products to keep a family farm going, software code to better gather and analyze health metrics. Every entrepreneur has a story to tell, and every time it’s told, the story gets better, the narrative clearer, the drama sharper and the possible outcomes more engaging. So the first answer to the “So what?” question is: “Listen to other stories and get your own story straight.”

On Thursday, keynote speaker Steven Kotler cited a Gallup survey indicating that more than 70 percent of employees in the U.S. are not meaningfully engaged in their jobs. The point? Who cares about a boring story, a narrative that isn’t personally compelling?

By my unscientific observation, at least half of the week’s attendees were not entrepreneurs – at least not yet. But they were interested is the idea of entrepreneurship. They articulated parts of their stories, but their narratives were incomplete – the characters were not fully realized and the drama had barely begun. They weren’t already passionate fans of either the Black Bears or the Wildcats, but they were intrigued by the thought of getting into the game. Indeed, rather than any particular story already in their heads, they were interested in learning how stories get started. They were looking for stories, ways to get into the game, ways to link a nascent personal passion to a way to make a living. For these people – and it would be interesting to know just how many there were – the purpose of Startup and Create Week was to figure out their own stories and learn how to tell them.

My own favorite was the one told by Togue Brawn of Maine Dayboat Scallops. Her passion was clearly the discrepancy between the extraordinarily high quality of fresh Maine scallops and the extraordinarily low prices Maine harvesters get for them by lumping them in with lower quality commodity scallops. Her solution? Take them direct to the consumer. She recounted her experience of taking both a batch of fresh scallops and the man who harvested them down to the cafeteria at Google’s new Manhattan headquarters. They sat down with a lucky crew who welcomed them to a lunch table and shared their Maine bounty. The Googleites were naturally impressed and eager to learn how they could get such wonderful seafood on a regular basis. Togue passed around her card, and a new market was opened. She summarized the lesson learned by saying, “I’m not a supplier; I’m an inside connection.”

That, to me, captured the essence of her story: understand both the culinary and psychological desires of her customers and demonstrate how her product fills the bill. If more Maine entrepreneurs learn how to tell that story in their own ways, our state’s economic future will look a lot brighter by the time Startup & Create Week 2016 rolls around.

Charles Lawton is chief economist for Planning Decisions Inc. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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