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August 7, 2017

Mainebiz 2010 Women to Watch: What are they up to now?

File Photo / tim Greenway
File Photo / tim Greenway
Mary Howes, president of Howie's Welding & Fabrication and managing principal of Otis Mill Ventures in Jay.
File Photo / tim Greenway
Lisa Dickson. associate principal at Arup Americas in Boston
File Photo / tim Greenway
Susan Corbett, CEO of Axiom Technologies in Machias
File Photo / tim Greenway
Nan Heald, executive director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance in Portland
Photo / Courtesy Susan MacKay
Susan MacKay, founder and president of Cerahelix Inc.

1. Mary Howes

The president of Howie's Welding & Fabrication and managing principal of Otis Mill Ventures in Jay tells us she has sold both Otis Ventures and Mill St. Café, and is now in the process of selling her third company, Howie's Welding & Fabrication. After 34 years, she says she is stepping out of the business world. She spends a lot of her time now as a member of several boards. She is chair of the Greater Franklin Development Corp. and serves as secretary for the Androscoggin Land Trust. She wants to spend more time with her new granddaughter, as well as her mom, who turns 90 in September. "The biggest challenge in business (and life) now is negativity and lack of respect from the public. There is so much division in politics, which trickles down to everyday life. My community is just starting a program called 'Community Heart & Soul,' which I will participate in, in order to help fight these problems." Her best advice to young women entrepreneurs: "Stay positive and trust your instincts."

2. Lisa Dickson

When we first talked to Dickson, she was regional manager and principal scientist at Kleinfelder/S E A Consultants, an architectural, engineering and science consultancy in Augusta. Since then, she moved to Boston, where she is an associate principal at Arup Americas, an engineering consultancy, as well as that company's director of resilience for the Americas. She focuses on innovative thinking for how communities endure shocks, stresses and adversity to become stronger. She has led multiple climate resilience projects, for clients ranging from the World Bank to Logan International Airport. She has been invited to the Pentagon as an adviser on climate security and is a technical advisor on two separate National Science Foundation-funded panels that focus on performance metrics to drive investment in infrastructure resilience. She is also a member of the Global Adaptation and Resilience Investment Working Group. Currently, she is co-leading the development of an executive-level course on resilience with MIT's Sloan School of Management. She tells us she's planning to get more involved with work in Maine again, though will remain in Arup's Boston office. Her advice to a young woman entrepreneur? "Be fearless."

3. Susan Corbett

The CEO of Axiom Technologies in Machias says her broadband solutions company's biggest achievement since 2010 is starting a nonprofit, the Axiom Education & Training Center, to provide adult education throughout Washington County, teach digital literacy classes throughout Maine and beyond and offer an after-school STEM program for students ages 10 to 18. She has expanded Axiom Technologies and is working with communities throughout Maine. She has doubled her staff (combined for-profit and nonprofit, from 12 to 24) since 2010. Axiom also was named as a partner with Microsoft to close the digital divide throughout the United States. Axiom has established itself as a "digital inclusion expert" in Maine and the United States, she says. The biggest challenge over the next five years is finding capital to grow and expand quickly. In September, Axiom plans to launch the National Digital Equity Center to collaborate with local and global change makers to close the digital divide. Her advice to young woman entrepreneurs: "Be strong, be brave, dream big and do the impossible."

4. Nan Heald

The executive director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance in Portland says the organization is celebrating its 50th anniversary of helping Maine's most vulnerable residents overcome pressing problems of everyday life, including domestic and sexual violence, homelessness, economic insecurity, financial exploitations, barriers to school and employment and other issues. In the past seven years, the program has handled more than 50,000 cases for low-income Mainers and helped millions of people understand their legal rights through its three popular websites. Pine Tree Legal tackled its first-ever endowment campaign, raising more than $1.5 million, which it hopes to grow. Gov. Paul LePage has increased its state appropriation to its highest level in history. But Pine Tree Legal's primary federal funding source, the Legal Services Corp., is now at risk, making the search for new general funding essential. Private donations represent a small fraction of its total budget. Over the next five years, it needs to broaden its annual fundraising efforts, she says. Her advice to young women entrepreneurs: "Having a strong team of individuals who share a commitment to the mission and bring a range of strengths and life experiences to their work."

5. Susan MacKay

When we first interviewed MacKay in 2010, she was founder and president of Zeomatrix, an Orono-based company. She founded a second company, Cerahelix Inc., in 2011. It has launched its first commercial filter product with initial sales in several key markets. She says her biggest personal achievement was presenting the winning pitch at Expo Day last fall as part of the New Materials and Packaging batch at Plug and Play accelerator in Silicon Valley. Cerahelix has raised $2.4 million in outside investment, secured $2.5 million in research and innovation grants and currently employs eight people. She is now planning to expand manufacturing capacity. Her biggest challenge over the next five years is managing growth both with hiring enough qualified people as well as getting access to capital. Her advice to a young woman entrepreneur: "Take the time to grow and maintain your personal network. It's good to be dedicated and work hard, but you need to set aside the time to make meaningful connections with people. Also be open to advice, but don't hesitate to speak up if you disagree with someone."

Read more

Women to Watch: Deirdre Wadsworth, Hardypond Construction

Women to Watch: Nancy Strojny, SCORE — Portland chapter

Women to Watch: Elizabeth Hayes, Infinity Federal Credit Union

Women to Watch: Danielle M. Conway, University of Maine School of Law

Women to Watch: Patricia Rosi, Wellness Connection of Maine

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