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In 2003 Michael Cote purchased the assets of AM Cannery, a business that was in the process of closing down and through hard work, dedication and tremendous enthusiasm for his business transformed it into not only a successful business, but one that is recognized worldwide and serves to represent the State of Maine. In the nine years Mike has owned Look’s Gourmet Food Company he has succeeded in rebranding and revitalizing the business. Through his creative vision he succeeded in rebranding and marketing his company’s traditional Maine products while developing new products to meet changing market demands retaining the jobs that would have been lost had the cannery closed and creating new jobs in Down East Maine.
Mike is a true “Mainer” born and raised in Auburn, Maine where he learned his strong work ethic from his parents who provided for Mike and his three siblings by working in the textile mills and shoe factories. He began working himself while still in school and while attending Maine Maritime Academy Mike realized the financial stress associated with two children in college was too much for the family to sustain so after one year he left school to enter the work force full time. His acumen for business and sales was quickly realized when he bought a Pepperidge Farm bakery distributorship in Western Maine that had a history of not being successful yet managed to double sales volume in the first year and based on that success the company encourages him to sell the distributorship and join them as a District sales manager. He quickly moved up through the ranks to the position of Regional Vice President and was recognized as “The Mechanic” because of his ability to fix things. Mike not only recognized, but addressed a multitude of missed opportunities for distribution and developed a strategy to successfully address those deficits and was promoted to the position of VP of National Alternate Channels where his reputation as a hard-worker with a can-do attitude brought him to the attention of the CEO of Odwalla who offered him a new opportunity as their Sr. VP of National Sales. He was so successful in that role Odwalla was targeted for acquisition by Coca-Cola.
Mike identified his next challenge in 2003 and chose to purchase the assets of a historic Down East seafood processing operation that had been family run for 85 years. He was able to save a business that had been unable to adapt to the changing marketplace. Through his hard work and extensive business knowledge with the assistance of Union Trust Company and the SBA Mike was able to turn that business around and in eight years has re-designed a company that was destined to go the way of the dinosaur into a vibrant and well-recognized brand with The Bar Harbor line of foods sold nationally in over 30% of the US grocery stores and in natural and specialty venues like Whole Foods Markets. On top of all of this, Mike still manages to find time to offer his assistance to others through his position as the current chairperson of the Maine Food Producers Alliance. He has also served on the Distributors Council of the Natural and Specialty Food Trade and on the board of the Maine Lobster Promotion Council. He was recently appointed to serve on the Regulatory Fairness Board for the State of Maine. And not one to let US borders hold him back, Mike will soon be traveling to El Salvador to assist the Business Council for Peace in analyzing small business candidates and how that organization can best serve their target audience of fast growing entrepreneurs in post-conflict countries. Mike’s story should serve as an inspiration to entrepreneurs everywhere, but especially here in Maine where through hard work, determination, and innovation he has built a brand that is recognized worldwide while keeping jobs in Down East Maine.
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.