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June 15, 2018

SCORE recognizes success stories with annual awards

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Adria Moynihan Rusk, owner of Still Life Studios, 82 Elm St., Portland, was one of two Woman-Owned Business Award winners at Thursday's SCORE Success Awards.

They're a former teacher, a former nurse, an artist, husband-wife teams and a mom and a mother and adult kids team. They were from Norway, Maine, and Sweden, Maine. Some had business experience, but most didn't.

Some didn't know what a business plan was. But they all had an idea.

And Thursday at the SCORE Maine Success Award luncheon, almost all the winners used the word "dream" to describe the business they envisioned when they sought help from SCORE.

The awards honored 10 businesses and their owners in a variety of categories from all over Maine. Winners accepted their awards accompanied by their SCORE mentors.

"I really believe entrepreneurs are the most important profession, the most important people, on the planet," Tyler Frank, founder of Garbage to Garden, told the group in his keynote address. "The glass you're drinking out of, the car you drove here … someone had to think of it."

He said successful entrepreneurs persevere in the face of negativity and discouragement. "They're willing to climb the harder trail," he said.

Susan deGrandpre, a SCORE mentor, said after the ceremony that many of those she's seen succeed with SCORE's help have a drive and a passion for what they want to do. One of her successful mentorees is Adria Moynihan Rusk, who won one of two Woman-Owned Business Awards Thursday.

"It becomes obvious pretty quickly who's going to do the hard work," deGrandpre said. Her role as a mentor is to give the kind of advice and guidance that helps the business owner the tools they need. "It's an objective person, who has no stake in the business and has a basic understanding of business," deGrandpre said. "[The business owner] does all the work."

Moynihan, 39, was an artist giving private lessons in a 150-square-foot studio, but had a dream of a space where artists would gather to give lessons and hold workshops.

"I imagined a creative refuge, a non-intimidating environment," she told the group as she accepted her award, with deGrandpre at her side.

When she walked into SCORE, Moynihan said, "I didn't know exactly what I was signing up for, but I knew I needed help."

She said deGrandpre never tried to talk her out of anything, but "guided me with actions rather than words."

The result was Still Life Studios, at 82 Elm St. in Portland. It's 10 times the size of Rusk's former space, with three artists-in-residence, workspaces and a large, bright classroom for workshops and programs.

"I never could have done this without SCORE," she said.

All of Thursday's winners had similar stories.

"I now think like a businessperson, not an educator," said Rachel Knight, the other Woman-Owned Award winner. Knight is a former teacher and her business, Destination Occupation, links employers and job seekers through educational job profile videos.

Other award winners

Also receiving awards at Thursday's luncheon:

Charlie, Erika and Brenda Melhus, founders of Norway Brewing Co., won the Green Small Business award. Their brewery, in downtown Norway, sources its food and beverage ingredients from local producers.

Elise and Frank Ferrel, founders of Zen Bear Honey Teas in Bath, which creates honey infused with teas, herbs and spices, won the Encore award for entrepreneurs over 50.

Diane Cyr, a former nurse and founder of the Biddeford Cultural and Heritage Center, won the Nonprofit Award. Her center strives to preserve the culture, heritage and history of Biddeford.

Kim Ortengren, founder of Wallace James Clothing Co., won the Innovative Small Business Award. Her company — now in 5,000 square feet with more than a dozen employees "and a lot of machines" — unites all steps of the clothing manufacturing process, from pattern drafting to sewing to customer fulfillment, for small, independent designers and apparel companies.

Steve Wimmer, founder of Sweden Street, an Aroostook County company, won the Technology Small Business Award. Sweden Street created Spud Tracker, a potato distribution management system that allows one person to spend one hour a week doing what it took two people 10 hours to do. The app allows farmers and others in the potato industry to track inventory, prices and more.

Kristen and Joe Camp, founders of Campfire Studio, a Westbrook ceramics studio, won the Young Entrepreneurs award. Their business began in their basement, said Kristen Camp. They graduated to production space in Westbrook's Dana Warp mill, and this summer they're moving into their first retail space, in Portland.

Maddie Purcell, founder of Fyood Kitchen, which provides a social experience for consumers through its amateur cooking competitions, won an Innovative Small Business award.

David Joseph, founder of DAVO Technologies, a sales tax management system, was the second Technology Small Business award.

MTI: 'SCORE is an essential partner'

At the beginning of the program, Brian Whitney, president of Maine Technology Institute, which has $180 million invested in Maine business, said SCORE is an essential partner.

"We relish our collaboration with SCORE as they provide incredible insight and advice to our MTI portfolio companies as well as other small business throughout the state," he said.

SCORE Portland Chair Nancy Strojny said SCORE provided more than 6,287 services to Maine small business owners and entrepreneurs last year.

In addition to offering free business workshops on a wide range of topics, SCORE mentors provide free face-to-face mentoring sessions, as well as virtual sessions with clients. SCORE Maine has a network of 121 mentors who helped 356 new business starts and 594 new jobs created, she said.

"We work hard to provide business owners and startups with support that allows their business ventures to thrive," she said.

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