Mug Buddies owner Margen Soliman. (Abigail Worthing photo)

BIDDEFORD – A local business has advanced into the second round of a television competition series, “Greenlight Maine.”

Mug Buddy Cookies is a Biddeford-based company owned and founded by Margen Soliman, a 2003 Biddeford High School graduate. Mug Buddy Cookies specializes in cookies that rest on the edge of a mug of coffee. Holiday cookies, for example, take the shape of houses and snowflakes with a cut out that will allow for them to rest on the lip of a mug.

“A mug buddy can mean two things. One is a delicious cookie that sits on your cup of coffee, and the second is a friend or loved one with which you share a mug of coffee or tea. We like to say, ‘enjoy a Mug Buddy with a mug buddy,” said Soliman, 33.

The team organized a live screening for the episode they were featured in, which aired at 10 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 18. Soliman hosted breakfast for the Mug Buddy team and invited guests, which included coffee mugs adorned with Mug Buddy cookies.

“Greenlight Maine,” is in its fourth season and allows 26 Maine-based companies the opportunity to present their business plans in front of a panel of judges head-to-head, two companies per episode.

“It’s kind of like ‘Shark Tank,’” Soliman said, referring to the ABC show where companies compete for funding to advance their vision. “It’s a really amazing opportunity for us.”

Over the course of 13 episodes, one company advancing from each, the 13 second-round contestants will be determined. After three rounds, one company will be declared the winner and will receive $100,000 to expand their business.

During the Mug Buddy episode, Soliman’s company faced off against Intoxicles, a Portland based company that makes cocktails in popsicle form, featuring flavors such as strawberry daiquiri and pina colada.

During their respective presentations, Meg McCormick and Max Mogenson of Intoxicles and Soliman detailed their operations, business models and plans for expansion. They had three minutes to do this before fielding questions from the panel.

Judges included Joel Russ, CEO of the Propeller Project, Jonathan Bench of Rudman Winchell and John Harvell from State Farm Insurance. Each episode is hosted by Julene Gervais.

According to Soliman, the episode was filmed in July, and each company filmed footage of them winning and losing to ensure secrecy prior to the release of the episode. Soliman herself was unaware of the results of the episode, even as she watched live with her family and friends.

The screening was held at Think Tank Biddeford in the Pepperell Mill Campus. While the episode played on a projection screen, about 30 supporters of the company waited excitedly for the conclusion of the episode. When the time came for the panel to announce the winner, there was an anxious hush over those gathered, waiting for the judges to flip over their cards and reveal who would advance into the next round. When all three judges revealed that it would indeed be Mug Buddy Cookies, Soliman excitedly yelled out “Oh!” while the rest began to cheer and embrace.

“I’m really excited,” Soliman said. “The great thing is that I get to hear the positive feedback for our product all the time at tradeshows and things like that. This was an opportunity for my team to finally get to hear some of it firsthand.”

Soliman prides her company on being Biddeford-based, operating out of a commercial kitchen on Elm Street, bringing business and publicity to her hometown. Multiple members of the community helped Soliman’s vision get off the ground, including Engine founder Tammy Ackerman, who helped secure three-dimensional cookie cutters for production. Soliman started the company in 2015 and executed 96,000 units in 10 weeks during its first year. Now, the cookies can be found online and in gift shops that span from Maine to New York, with an expanding list of companies that carry Mug Buddy Cookies. These specialty cookies can be found in local retailers like Robin’s Confections on Alfred Street or Dock Square Coffee House in Kennebunkport, and have also been featured at Anthropologie. Products include cookies decorated with butterflies for spring and summer and a selection of Maine-inspired cookies shaped like lighthouses, lobster traps and cartons of blueberries.

As a graduate of both Biddeford High School and St. James School, she has enlisted the help of family and friends from the Biddeford area to help with the business, including childhood friend Jessica Paiva, whom Soliman met in grade school. Early on Paiva was a photographer for the products and remains an involved supporter of Soliman’s company.

“It’s funny because when we were in fifth- through eighth-grade, we always had to practice giving speeches, and I just thought it was so silly and I didn’t understand why,” Soliman said. “Now, as I was preparing to be on this show and running my speech over and over again, I kept thinking to myself, ‘Oh, this is why.’ I wish I could tell my teachers that I get it now.”

Soliman and the company will now continue with the holiday push for the cookies, which has 50,000 units ordered so far. As of press time, Soliman was unaware of when the next episode of “Greenlight Maine” would film, but she was thrilled to still be in the running.

“This could be an amazing opportunity for us,” Soliman said. “I’m confident in the products and would love the opportunity to expand.”

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