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Maine District Office
68 Sewall Street Room 512
Augusta, ME 04330
United States
Phone: 207-622-8551
Fax: 207-622-8277
Hours of Operation:
Augusta Office - 8:00 AM to 4:30 Area Offices - By Appointment Only
Cory Laplante

Young Entrepreneur Expands Access to Prosthetics

Young Entrepreneur Expands Access to Prosthetics in Northern Maine

Cory J. Laplante grew up in the town of Van Buren, Maine. At the age of 16, Cory lost a leg to osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. At the time he was faced with traveling hundreds of miles to receive quality care, and it was during one of those long trips to New Hampshire that he made a promise to himself to go on to college, become a certified prosthetist and open a practice in Aroostook County, which he has done—in a very successful fashion. In 2007 Cory established Northern Prosthetics in Presque Isle, Maine. Cory was the only employee of the business for the first year, handling all aspects of the business from negotiating contracts with health insurance companies, to the patient’s protocol from casting to fabrication, right through and including the billing process. Due to the increasing demand of the business he began adding staff for billing and also added an orthotic line. The business quickly expanded and began to outgrow the existing facility, so Cory decided to build a new office, with the assistance of an SBA Express loan. In 2011 Cory acted as the general contractor to oversee the construction of the new building. Through Cory’s hard work and determination they moved into the new space in September 2011. Cory has now expanded his staff at Northern Prosthetics to nine (9) full-time employees and two (2) part-time employees.

Success Written in Stone for Small Business

Qualey Granite was opened for business in 2003 by Matt Qualey. Initially providing granite countertops for kitchens and baths, the business expanded in 2006, with the assistance of Bangor Savings Bank and an SBA 7a loan, and began offering a full range of flooring tiles. By 2010 the business had moved into its current facility in Veazie, Maine which includes a warehouse and state of the art home design center. By 2011, again with the assistance of Bangor Savings Bank and the SBA, the company added another line becoming a distributor for Consentino and sales surged to over $1.5 million. They added a new sales representative position in 2012 and have seen positive sales results with their company now offering one of the largest stone inventories north of Boston.

Matt Qualey is a true “Mainer” having grown up on a potato farm in Aroostook County and graduating from the University of Maine. While preparing for graduate school, Mr. Qualey apprenticed with Irish stone masons in Boston. He then started Qualey Enterprises, a full service landscaping and hardscaping company which evolved into Qualey Granite & Quartz. He’s maintained a fluid business plan adjusting to meet market demands and adding more products and diversity as needed for the business to continue to grow and prosper. Thanks to Mr. Qualey’s business acumen and understanding of the industry, Qualey Granite & Quartz has successfully weathered the economic challenges of the construction and home improvement industry and remains well positioned for continued growth as the economy improves.

Matt attributes his success to providing superior customer service and a wide variety of stone, wood flooring and tile options for customers. Right alongside Matt is his wife, Laurie, who works full time in the business. If you visit Qualey Granite and Quartz, be on the lookout for their mascots, Penelope and Gaius, two of their rescued Chihuahuas.

Pieceworks photo

The Ghost in the Manufacturing Chain

Sixteen years ago, owner Cathy Roberts started a custom manufacturing business in her basement in mid-coast Maine. Over the years Pieceworks, Inc.’s services have grown to include manufacturing, assembling, packaging, shipping, and research and development. As Cathy explains to prospective clients, "Our company tailors our services to meet your needs."

In essence, Piecworks, Inc. functions as a ghost in the manufacturing chain, working behind the scenes to fill production gaps for companies and businesses, often serving an integral role in helping growing businesses reach the next level.

Since its humble beginnings, Cathy’s company has moved into its own factory and now boasts a workforce of up to 10 staff who fulfill a critical role in the manufacturing process. Each new contract requires innovation and creativity, which energizes Cathy and her staff to meet challenges that stretch their problem solving skills and creative abilities.

However, with a depressed economy and a drop in larger manufacturing clients, Cathy felt the business needed new direction so a year ago she began meeting with Betty Gensel, Women’s Business Center business counselor. Cathy credits business counseling with helping her redefine the company’s market niche by targeting home-based and microbusinesses that are experiencing growth pains and may lack capacity for and expertise in larger scale production.

In addition to business counseling, Cathy regularly attends the Women's Business Center monthly networking meetings held in Augusta and Farmington. Some of the connections she has made there with other women-owned businesses have led to increased visibility and new clientele. One such client is Judy Tollefson, owner of Judy’s Colors. After speaking with Cathy, Judy found that by outsourcing packaging and shipping of her knitting kits to Pieceworks Inc., she could return to her passion of working with colors designing knitting patterns, and promoting her e-commerce business.

"In general, I have found that some business owners may be nervous at first about having someone else produce their product so I explain our process and the built-in quality control measures," Cathy explains. "Once we both agree it is the right fit, it becomes clear to the owner that by outsourcing, they have more time and energy to create and research new products and markets and work 'on'; instead of 'in'; their business. That's a win-win because it allows business owners to concentrate more fully on the reason that led them to establish their businesses in the first place."

Thanks in part to business counseling, Cathy is now intentionally diversified and flexible to reflect the needs of new, growing, and internet companies for a shift in manufacturing, while she keeps up contracts with her initial customer base of larger manufacturing concerns.

"Cathy Roberts is a good example of a savvy business woman who knows how to respond intentionally to a market niche," business counselor Betty Gensel points out. "Plus she realizes the importance of constant networking, coupled with the need to offer insourcing, which is the growing trend to keep and return manufacturing to the USA."

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