Events coming up from The Women’s Business Center at CEI

Two events coming up from The Women’s Business Center at CEI:

Tuesday, August 28 | 9:00-10:30am

In this workshop, we’ll learn how to make a budget that finally works – even if your income is unpredictable, you’re in debt, your situation is in flux, or all of the above – by using a zero-based budget. We’ll also discuss how to figure out how much to pay yourself and how to know if you can afford to make an investment in your business (like hiring an employee or giving yourself a raise). You’ll come away with tips and tricks, as well as tools and resources, to make budgeting finally work for you.

Learn More or Register 

A series of facilitated peer groups for women business owners! Fall cohort beginning September 18!

The Women’s Business Center at CEI and the Portland SCORE Chapter are collaborating to host FocusME, a series of peer groups for female entrepreneurs. This spring we are offering a group for early stage businesses and a group for growth-stage businesses. Two groups of smart, savvy, female entrepreneurs will meet every two weeks for six facilitated sessions focusing on business and personal growth, followed by four bi-monthly check-in sessions. Participation includes networking opportunities throughout the year, as well as an invitation to our annual FocusME celebration.

Learn More or Register

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SBA’s Maine Office is Hiring a Lender Relations Specialist

The Maine District Office is looking for someone to take on the role of Lender Relations Specialist in our office.  If you know anyone who might be interested in this position please share this information with them!  We are looking for a team player with a focus on providing good customer service, with a strong understanding of commercial lending, and ideally, a familiarity with SBA loan guaranty products, as well as a willingness to learn!

This posting is only open from July 24th through August 6th and interested applicants will need to apply via  FMI or to apply please click:

The Lender Relations Specialist will collaborate with public and private sector agencies, organizations, and individuals to ensure that identified underserved communities have knowledge of and access to SBA and other federal, state, and community programs and resources that support entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Responsibilities in this position include:

    • Market all SBA lending programs and service through outreach and marketing.
    • Conduct outreach, training, education, development, lender recruitment, consultation and working with assigned lenders in the District,
    • Conduct face-to-face visits with individual lending institution for the purpose of delivering SBA loan programs and services in the District
    • Conduct or participate in training sessions designed to ensure SBA programs and services are optimized in the various financial organizations served by the District.
    • Provide assistance through consultative and customer interactions with lenders.
    • The incumbent of the position could be assigned various local market duties to be determined upon the selection and strengths of the individual.

For more information about the job or working for the SBA in Maine please reach out to one of us in the Maine District Office!

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New approaches for foundations in a local economy

Investing in Local Business to Get an Even Break
July 31, 2018
By Courtney E. Martin

(View Article Online:

Ms. Martin is the author, most recently, of “The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream.”

It appears we are experiencing a bit of an economic reckoning in this country. Historic wealth inequality has prompted a wide variety of experts to put some big ideas on the table.

Do we need a federal minimum wage, or should we expand the earned-income tax credit? Even more extreme, but gaining traction on both sides of the aisle, do we need a universal basic income? Or is the solution, as many conservatives would argue, less government intervention, not more?

While Democrats and Republicans tussle over how we address the fact that the top 1 percent of Americans now have more than twice as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, one organization has been forwarding an unapologetically small, surprisingly radical idea: localism.

Rodney Foxworth, the executive director of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (known popularly as Balle), explains it this way: “By localism, we don’t mean parochialism. We mean creating direct relationships within the context of capital. In other words, when Wall Street bankers in New York or London can make important decisions that deeply affect the lives of people in Jackson, Miss., or rural Oklahoma, we’ve got a problem.”

You wouldn’t be alone if you associate localism with white hippies of the 1970s who liked their granola homemade and their T-shirts tie-dyed. Mr. Foxworth’s entry point is anything but them.

The son of a court clerk from Baltimore, Mr. Foxworth remembers his mother reading Langston Hughes’s “Mother to Son” — “life for me ain’t been no crystal stair”— to him almost every night and exposing him early on to the criminal justice system and all the havoc it was wreaking in black communities. After graduating from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, he worked as a journalist before finding himself pulled into the world of community-minded black entrepreneurs in his hometown — people who created jobs for formerly incarcerated citizens and incubated new businesses started by local residents.

Now 34, Mr. Foxworth explains: “I didn’t think about being part of a localism movement, but I was completely enmeshed in the place where I grew up and valued the set of relationships that I knew were required to move anything forward.”

People attending the 2017 Balle Leadership Summit.Techboogie Media
When some of the most interesting leaders he knew became Balle Fellows, he became intrigued by the organization. Founded by a Philadelphia business owner, Judy Wicks, it began as a membership organization in 2001 — a 21st-century sort of chamber of commerce for people trying to raise public awareness of the power of buying locally. But by 2010, the members began to think more deeply about how capitalism in the United States had evolved in a way that discriminated against people like the Foxworth family, people of color in urban centers, indigenous folk and poor rural Americans when they tried to buy homes or create small businesses.

Any attempt to encourage local economies, they reasoned, would have to acknowledge that history and embrace the under-resourced talent across the country. The Balle Local Economies Fellowship program, created in 2011, focused on bringing the “unofficial mayors of their towns” together to share best practices on building local, more equitable economies and gaining knowledge of alternative economic models like worker-ownership, land trusts and community-driven investment.

Mr. Foxworth became a fellow (a status that lasts 18 months) in 2016 and says he was transformed, both personally and professionally. He remembers a moment on the first day of the first gathering he attended, when a white woman from rural Kentucky with a strong accent started speaking and he felt himself recoil. “Wow, what have I gotten myself into?” he remembers thinking. “I was this black dude from Baltimore with all of these biases about what this person brings. By the end of the week, I connected with Ada Smith and realized she was a brilliant, passionate leader from Appalachia who was helping her small town transition into a postcoal economy and that we really shared the most fundamental value: love of our communities.”

Mr. Foxworth became the executive director of Balle last year. To date the organization has had 101 fellows from 43 states and provinces, collectively serving 121,650 small businesses. People of color now make up a majority of both the board and the staff.

Balle is working on many of the United States’ most excruciating pain points — economic inequality, racial animosity, partisanship and rural vs. urban divides. They don’t do it by just making unusual allies of people like Mr. Foxworth and Ms. Smith, who have historically been excluded from the mechanisms that build wealth (like mortgages and business loans); they also seek to raise the awareness and change the practices of those with a disproportionate amount of privilege.

One of their newest and most successful efforts is called the Local Economy Foundation Circle. Since its founding in 2014, it has worked to encourage 50 philanthropic leaders, with combined resources of $8 billion, to rethink how they operate. Most of these leaders have come from community foundations, distinguished by their goal of enhancing the lives of the public in a given region; there are 750 such foundations throughout the United States, with assets ranging from $3 million to $8 billion.

The Local Economy Foundation Circle functions on two levels. One is interpersonal. Foundation leaders are guided through a framing and a vocabulary about race and equity. And they are invited to reflect on their own power and privilege. Balle facilitators ask questions like: Who are you, and why do you do the work that you do? What did you learn about money growing up? For many, this is a new experience. Jessica David, senior vice president of the Rhode Island Foundation, calls it “the most challenging, cage-rattling and integrated experience I’ve had in my professional career.”

The other level is tactical — by systematically analyzing where their investments are held and how they are giving away money, leaders learn how to get ruthlessly honest about where their foundations are failing to live up to their values. Sarah Kinser, the chief program officer of the Arkansas Community Foundation, was surprised by the process: “I expected to find a step-by-step recipe for transitioning our portfolio, but the Foundation Circle helped me realize that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.”

But that doesn’t mean the Circle’s members can’t be helpful to one another; to the contrary, they create a support group as they go back to their home institutions and try to change them. This, not the accounting, is often the hardest work. It often involves a lot of pushback from boards, attorneys and others who are accustomed to the old ways. Ms. Kinser explains: “The members of my cohort are supporting one another in discovering ways forward that are specific to the needs of the communities we serve and the organizations we represent. It’s more difficult, but it’s more authentic and, I believe, will be more effective in the long run.”

Many of the leaders go back to their institutions and do an audit of where their endowments are invested, then disinvest from companies that don’t align with their values and invest instead in local efforts like affordable housing developments, work force development programs and small businesses. To date, foundations involved in the program have committed to reallocating over $100 million into their communities and mission-aligned investing.

In some ways, that’s a drop in the bucket when compared with the larger philanthropic sector. In 2014, nearly 90,000 foundations operating in the United States reported giving away about $60 billion; they are legally required to give away just 5 percent of their assets each year. Much ink has been spilled analyzing the failures of various grand philanthropic gestures, like Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million investment in the Newark public schools. But rarely do we hear about another, even more significant number: in 2014, those same foundations reported holding $865 billion in assets. In other words, we hear a lot about the 5 percent of foundation dollars actively at work, but almost nothing about the 95 percent that could be working.

Typically, foundations have operated with a sort of church-and-state mentality about their money and how it is handled — one set of people (finance guys) manages the money according to one set of values (creating profit), while a different set of people (do-gooders) donates the money according to another set of values (an equal start for everyone). Foundation leaders are evaluated, in large part, on the growth of their assets. But members of the Local Economy Foundation Circle are questioning whether growing, or even maintaining, wealth is even ethical.

The Heron Foundation, which is dedicated to helping people get out of poverty, is one of the leaders in this regard. In 2012, its then-president, Clara Miller, wrote: “Business as usual — with respect to both strategy and the way we operate as a foundation — is no longer an option.” She and her staff audited their entire $270 million endowment. They found that only 44 percent of the companies they were invested in actually aligned with their values. Today, after withdrawing funds from companies like CoreCivic, the largest operator of private prisons in the United States, formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America, that number is an impressive 100 percent.

It wasn’t easy. In a reflection on the lessons learned for Stanford Social Innovation Review, Ms. Miller explains: “We looked underneath the traditional ‘asset allocation’ view — equities (stock), debt (bonds), real assets, alternatives and so on — to get visibility into the enterprises and projects that give these assets value. This practice has been labor intensive, but has sharply improved the integrity of the underwriting and monitoring of our holdings.”

The Heron Foundation has gone on to fund Balle’s Local Economy Foundation Circle because they are intent on helping other foundations take these same steps. If even a fraction of the $865 billion that foundations currently invest in Wall Street were reallocated to Main Street, the country would look and feel profoundly different — particularly to those who have been left out.

In “Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered,” E. F. Schumacher wrote, “from bigness comes impersonality, insensitivity and a lust to concentrate abstract power.” Forty-five years later, Rodney Foxworth and his unlikely band of brothers and sisters are modernizing the crusade for community-mindedness.

“The people and communities most adversely impacted by economic extraction and wealth inequality are resilient and have long innovated solutions to enduring systemic challenges,” Mr. Foxworth explains. “They’re doing the hard work. Now it’s time for policymakers, philanthropists and investors to follow their lead.”

Courtney E. Martin, a co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, which supports reporting about responses to social problems, is the author of “Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists.”

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Stonecipher Farm Volunteer Day: July 26th

Attention, All!

As some of you may have heard, Stonecipher Farm has had an extremely difficult time hiring dependable and consistent farm help for their 2018 growing season. Ian fears that he is getting behind in his harvesting, weeding, and other farm chores and that he may begin to lose crops. Bethany and Eric at Harvest Tide Organics have offered to coordinate a volunteer day at Stonecipher to help weed some vegetable beds that have fallen by the wayside. Folks should plan to arrive at the farm for either a 9:00AM shift or a 1:00PM (or both!!) on Thursday, July 26th. Volunteers can expect to work for about 3 hours and should bring their own water, snacks, sun protection, and whatever else they may need to stay comfortable. This is a great opportunity to help one of our neighbors, get outside, and get your hands dirty on one of Bowdoinham’s very special working farms! Stonecipher Farm is located at:

1186 River Rd
Bowdoinham, Maine 04008

Ian is also looking for long-term paid farm help, so feel free to share this job opportunity among your networks.

Volunteers can RSVP to Bethany at Please specify which time you would like to join us for, and please plan to RSVP by the end of the day on Wednesday, July 25th (if RSVPing isn’t your thing, just show up!).

Thank you in advance for your help!

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“Soil 2017” Reading & Book Signing by Woody Tasch

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July 21st-22nd Friends of Liberty Hall and Greenhorns present: “Halls away Downeast”

Join us on July 21-22 as we present a tour of the civic architecture of Downeast Maine in partnership with Friends of Liberty Hall, a newly restored hall in Machiasport Maine. Along with other partners and presenters we will proceed from Ellsworth IOOF across Franklin, Cherryfield, Columbia Falls, Mahiasport, Machias, Dennysville, Pembroke, Perry and Eastport visiting halls, granges, churches, taverns, school houses and other historic or revived community infrastructure along the route with a series of local interpreters. Attendees will learn about the work of the Downeast Salmon Federation and the Tides Institute, with a presentation about local food networks and Grange Hall restoration in Machias, a lecture about fisheries history in Eastport. We will be sleeping overnight at Tide Mill farm, an organic family farm that has been run by the same family for 9 generations! The tour delivers guests door to door all aboard the West bus, all meals and lectures are included.

Washington County
Washington County is host to extraordinary terrestrial and aquatic wealth which formed the the basis of powerful 19th century extraction economies ( lumber, fish). The communities who benefited from these resource based economies in turn used that wealth built outstanding social structures. The beautiful halls are irreplaceable yet endangered relics of this era, and are now part of our legacy to protect, adapt and re-imagine. These halls have such potential! Community efforts to date have kept these halls in good roofs and gutters. However, like small towns around the country Grange-revival and relevance comes from functioning kitchens, microphones, and activities that keep people engaged and sustaining these buildings can be expensive! There are existing grants from Maine Community Foundation, and other sources which can help non-profit and private projects. Renovations often emphasize restoration of kitchens, performance/office/community meeting space, and new uses for old buildings.

Friends of Liberty Hall
Founded in 2006, the Friends of Liberty Hall are dedicated to returning a major historic building to its former glory and making it a focal point for community prosperity through the fostering of activities related to the site’s unique cultural, artistic and environmental history.

Overlooking the site of the first American naval victory of the Revolutionary War, and built as the Town Hall of Machiasport in 1873, Liberty Hall is one of the finest examples of civic architecture in Maine. From the outset, the Friends have been actively working with local people and seasonal residents to raise funds to secure the building. In this way they have facilitated an ongoing, expansive discussion about the future use of Liberty Hall.

Between 2006 and 2008, almost a million dollars was raised through government grants, private funds and individual donations to return a precarious and derelict structure to its former glory. Two phases of a four-phase restoration project have been completed. The remaining tasks include the repair of the rear of the building and the full interior restoration.

Given its location on the edge of the Machias Bay, with its distinctive archaeological, environmental and historical character, and its unmatched size and capacity for meeting and theater space, Liberty Hall is a major resource that promises to benefit not just the immediate surrounding towns but populations across Washington County.

This event is co-sponsored by Cherryfield-Narraguagus Historical Society

Important Info:
Cost: $150 tax deductable donation requested. (Includes all meals, transportation, lectures and accommodations for a 2 day whistle-stop tour)

Location: Meet 8 am at the historical society Northeast Harbor or mid morning in Ellsworth.

RSVP required, limited spaces – email asap to reserve your space now!

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Speaker Sisterhood Club for Women Entrepreneurs Launching Sept. 2018

Speaker Sisterhood is a network of speaking clubs created exclusively for women, which offers a structured, facilitated curriculum that is designed to help women use public speaking and presentation skills to advance their business or career, enhance their leadership impact, build confidence, and increase visibility for themselves and their businesses through speaking opportunities.

CEI is excited to be bringing Speaker Sisterhood to Portland with the launch of our club in September, 2018!

The club will meet at CoworkHERS in Portland twice per month and a total of 20 times per year. In order to provide speaking opportunities to all members in the allotted two-hour meeting windows, clubs have a maximum of 15 members. To learn more or secure your spot please visit us at the link below!

Learn More or Register:

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New Roots Cooperative Farm & Isuken Co-op Open Farmstand in Lewiston Grand Opening Celebration

​You’re invited!

New Roots Cooperative Farm and Isuken Co-op Open Farmstand in Lewiston
Grand Opening Celebration

​Wednesday, July 11th, 5-7pm, 996 Sabattus St. Lewiston

Two cooperative businesses have joined forces to re-open the former Blackie’s Farm Stand at 996 Sabattus St in Lewiston. New Roots Cooperative Farm will be managing the farmstand and selling produce from their farm, other New American farmers, other Maine farmers, and non-local produce and fruit. Isuken Co-op will be opening their food truck later in the summer and the farmstand will be the home base for their Somali Bantu farm to table cuisine. These two co-ops are inviting the community to come to celebrate the opening of the farmstand on Wednesday, July 11th from 5-7pm. There will be Somali food, fresh produce, and prayers for the new stand.

New Roots Cooperative Farm is Maine‘s first immigrant-owned cooperative and have gained local and national media attention for their work. In 2016, they started a 30-acre farm on College St in Lewiston where they grow vegetables for wholesale customers, farmers markets and their community supported agriculture program. Isuken Co-op is a newer immigrant-owned worker co-op which is starting the first Somali Bantu farm to table food truck in the country and grows vegetables at a farm in Lisbon. Both co-ops are owned by Somali Bantu farmers who came to the US as refugees and are now US citizens and business owners, creating jobs and food access in their new home.

The farmstand was operated for many years by Blackie’s which also has a farmstand in Auburn and farm in Minot. Last year, it changed hands to a former Blackie’s employee and now New Roots and Isuken have taken over the lease and plan to continue this business into the future.

The farmstand will be open Mon-Friday 11am-7pm and Saturday & Sunday 10am-5pm. More information can be found at and

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More U.S. businesses are becoming worker co-ops: Here’s why

Article appears in Fast Company, read the entire article here.

In 1982, Linda and Gregory Coles were struggling to find a sitter for their 18-month-old daughter. After a year of searching, they just decided to open their own daycare, and founded A Child’s Place in Queens, New York, in 1983. Thirty-four years later, they were ready to retire. “We were going to sell the business,” Linda says. But their broker suggested that instead of selling to new owners, they offer the business to their employees, who could then buy it and organize as a worker cooperative.

The Coles’ hadn’t heard of worker cooperatives before, but once the broker explained how it would work, Linda knew it was the right decision for them. “The idea that we could turn our business over to our employees was one of the best things we thought we could ever do,” she says.

A Child’s Place is now in the process of reorganizing as a cooperative–one of just 300 worker-owned small businesses in the U.S. While employee-owned cooperatives are still a very underrepresented model of workplace organization, they deliver well-documented benefits to the businesses and employees they govern. According to the Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI), a nonprofit that supports the development of worker co-ops, employee-owned small businesses see an average of 4% to 5% higher productivity levels and more stability and potential for growth. In contrast to traditional businesses, worker co-ops see much lower rates of employee turnover and business closure. They’re also known to boost both profits and worker wages.

Because the people doing the work for the company are also the ones who own the company, they feel a greater sense of responsibility for and personal stake in helping the business succeed. While there’s still a lot of knowledge-sharing that needs to happen before co-ops go mainstream, recently, policymakers are taking notice of the benefits of worker cooperatives, and new legislation is on the way support their growth. And with millions of baby boomer-owned businesses set to change hands in the upcoming decades, this transition could be an opportunity to create more democratic workplaces across the country–if business owners, workers, and advocates can work together to convert these enterprises into employee-owned cooperatives.


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The Carrot Project’s Business Assistance Network for Farms & Food Businesses


(Photo: Two Farmers Farm, Scarborough, ME)

The Carrot Project and their partners have started a new initiative outlined in the guiding document, The Blueprint: Building a Better Business Assistance Network for Farms and Food Businesses. (Click here to view The Blueprint.)

What is the Blueprint?

Demand for local, ecologically-sound food is increasing rapidly as consumers, advocates, and policy-makers seek to support local and regional food systems. However, current and aspiring farmers and food business owners face significant barriers in accessing land, capital and markets, as well as developing viable business models. There is no consistent support to help farmers and food businesses develop long-term economic viability.

The Carrot Project is a cohort of farm and food business technical assistance providers and funders, ranging from direct service providers, advocacy non-profits, and federal and state agricultural extension services, to foundations. They envision a vibrant local and regional farm and food business economy in the Northeastern US, where entrepreneurs are able to access the tools, resources, and know-how they need to flourish. They came together at the National Farm Viability Conference in 2017 to inform the development of a strategic agenda, outlined in The Blueprint, for the development of a regional network of organizations, programs and services that supports the long-term economic viability of farm and food businesses.The success of food and farm businesses contributes to both the transformation of the food and agriculture system by meeting consumer demand, and to meeting state and regional goals to develop local food systems.

The Blueprint lays out three primary objectives:

  • Objective 1: Cultivate a pipeline of business advisors to advise agricultural entrepreneurs across all business stages, scales, types, and populations.
  • Objective 2: Develop a strong interstate network that provides professional development, networking, and advocacy opportunities for business technical assistance providers.
  • Objective 3: Secure sufficient funding and other resources to ensure access to one-on-one business technical assistance across the New England and Hudson Valley regions.

Click here to view The Blueprint.

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