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In a leap of faith, Shanna Wheelock and her husband, a poet, moved to Lubec, Maine, in 2001. They moved into his grandfather's vacant home in a wooded glade, where they both found the beauty of nature and the solitude conducive to making art.
A few years later Shanna, who was teaching art in the public school, began to sell wheel-thrown cups, bowls and vases at her home studio in the summer. However, faced with a possible cutback in her position in 2009, she contacted WBC Downeast Business Counselor Ruth Cash-Smith to explore ways to grow her art business, Cobscook Pottery and Fiber Arts.
Meeting quarterly to review progress and envision next steps, Shanna has learned the value of business planning, goal setting and marketing--evidenced by achieving a sales growth of 100% in just two years.
"When I reviewed last year's accomplishments with my business counselor." Shanna said, "I saw I'd really forged ahead. I designed new products, improved my signage, kept the shop open more consistently, tracked sales, vended at a few select fairs, exhibited my work at three new venues, maintained my blog regularly, and was featured in American Craft, a national art publication."
In between part-time teaching and working in her art studio and shop, Shanna also carves out time to pursue an MFA at Heartwood College of Art, where she pours her political passion into creating ceramic art.
"I am proud of more fully embracing life as an artist," Shanna reflects. "I find that when I stay receptive, many artistic doors open for me. I intend to stay focused on making my living as an artist."
What kind of personalities would take on the challenge of starting a company to manufacture a ‘good economy’ product in the midst of an economic recession, in the eastern part of the country, which automatically ensures higher distribution costs? Meet Tom Sturtevant and Trapper Clark.
Tom had built and sold several successful companies in the past, while Trapper knew all there was to know about the manufacturing of aluminum trailers. Together, they founded ALCOM Inc. out of a facility in Waterville, Maine and began to change the face of the North America’s aluminum trailer industry. Beginning with a core of 20 local employees in 2006, ALCOM began producing some of the forward thinking designs that Trapper was coming up with in the field of snow trailers. While many Maine companies never achieve annual sales of 2 million dollars, ALCOM crossed that threshold in its inaugural year. Their employee roster grew to over 55 employees by the fall of 2009, and with the relocation to their newly constructed 70,000 square foot facility in Winslow, Maine, their employment base immediately grew to 85; and based on projected sales over the next 24 months they hope to add a total of 40 new employees. Revenues increased 245% in 2007 and then bumped up another 65% in 2008. At the height of the recession, ALCOM was experiencing 2009 sales growth in excess of 25%, year over year. Sales for the first five months of 2010 showed an increase of about 60%.
Meanwhile, in an effort to expand their market outside of New England, ALCOM first devised a way to minimize freight costs to dealers so that they would not be paying for shipment from Maine, but from Indiana, where most other trailer manufacturers were located. Their ability to create this solution increased unit sales. Today, a strong relationship with Bill’s Auto Transport, a Maine trucking company, allows ALCOM to ship to the west coast affordably.
The story of ALCOM goes beyond just running a successful business. They employ Maine workers and support their local and Maine economy. They also contribute unselfishly to faith-based organizations and families in need. Tom and Trapper contribute thousands of dollars a year to charities and helped support nine families in Haiti even before the earthquake highlighted the needs of that country. Tom and Trapper share complementing talents along with a focused vision and a commitment to giving back – knowing that true success is attributable to many.