Brett Richardson, right, Lisbon’s economic and community development director, leads a tour of the Worumbo mill site. Matt Wagner of Main Street America, spoke at a meeting earlier in the morning at the Moxie Hub and kneels on the left. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

A new business hub in Lisbon is catering to entrepreneurs and creatives looking to network and grow their businesses.

Lisbon is a vibrant and emerging town with great potential for local entrepreneurs to grow their business, said Matt Wagner, vice president of revitalization programs at the National Main Street Center, a nonprofit that has been helping revitalize older and historic commercial districts for nearly 40 years.

The town and Ancient York Lodge 155 signed a memorandum of understanding in July to develop the Moxie Hub after receiving a $60,000 grant from the Maine Community Foundation and Maine Development Foundation’s Maine Downtown Center last year.

The hub aims to create a nurturing ecosystem for local entrepreneurs and remote workers.

Wagner conducted an analysis for the hub and has been supporting the entrepreneurship initiative for almost two years now in Lisbon. The study focused on micro ventures, remote workers, solopreneurs and gig economy workers. It also examined various demand and financial models to better understand sustainability.

The study found that there was a demand for co-working space in Lisbon.

“Co-working spaces reflect growth in remote workers, independent consultants, neutral-location entrepreneurs, micro ventures, gig economy workers. Most traditional co-working offices are spaces that share utilities and services, and oftentimes share amenities. The spaces allow workers and entrepreneurs to be able to create their own space and maintain the environment,” according to the study.

About 74% of the business activities carried out in the town are by local people who started the business while living here and not by outsiders, said Wagner told local business leaders at the open house.

Dr. Matt Wagner, left, answers questions after his speech on Wednesday about how the proposed development on the Worumbo mill site in Lisbon can support entrepreneurs. Listening in from the left are Kristal Robishaw of Grt Bakes, Maggie Barnard of Barnard Financial, and Keena Tracy of Little Ridge Farm. The forum was held at the Moxie Hub, on the first story of the Ancient York Lodge in Lisbon. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“Having a space like Moxie Hub that locals can utilize to test concepts, develop networks, get education and training on key concepts to run their business is so critical,” said Wagner. “The important aspect of this project is that it’s utilizing the space that is already present here.”

Wagner added that it is important to explore small towns’ assets because they often get overlooked. 

“When we speak about economic development in small towns, people often ask how can we bring talent from outside and what can we incentivize to come here, but what is overlooked is what we already have in our community,” said Wagner. “When we think about rural economies small towns, we often feel that we cannot build big high tech hubs that universe campuses have, but we underestimate our assets that are locally present.”

Wagner said the hub is a great example of how people can make the best use of a local asset with a kitchen, a space for retail businesses, good feasibility, and a great partner in leadership.

“I think this space has a much greater chance of long-term sustainability and resiliency because it has great partnerships and is multifunctional. I know there will be flexibility built into it,” said Wagner.

Rachel Legloahec, a private chef and a resident of Lisbon who is looking to use the kitchen space at the hub, said it is a great opportunity to expand her business.

“I am working out of my house now, but I want to start meal prep classes and would be using this kitchen space entirely as much as possible,” said Legloahec. “I think by having a bigger space I can work more efficiently and take more clients. It just makes things easier.”

“The space can also be used to host bridal showers or harvest dinners where I can cook for them and highlight the local food. We want to create this kitchen space to be something good for now, but it’s going to be great for years,” added Legloahec.

Maggie Norzon, a local clothing store owner, said it was her first time visiting the hub. She feels that the hub will be a welcoming space for people who don’t know where to start and are looking for guidance from other business owners.

“It’s a good space to host pop-up shops,” said Norzon. “I might be able to help plan some events here during the Christmas season and also help other businesses who want to move into the town.”

A holistic health and wellness fair will take place at the hub on Oct. 2 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., where ten vendors will participate.

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