Image courtesy of Flowfold
Are you in search of buoyant stories from Maine’s island and remote coastal communities about economic stability and resilience?
The Island Institute’s Economic Development staff welcome you to this series of blog posts, a new resource for island and coastal small businesses. To easily find future posts, go to the blog home page and select “economic development” from the drop down menu to filter blog posts by this topic, or go to islandinstitute.org/blog/economic.
Why are we doing this?
The Island Institute has been heavily invested in helping to sustain island and remote coastal communities for over thirty years. In response to requests from these communities, we launched our Economic Development program in 2014 and have since brought on great staff to help support the economic viability of Maine’s coast.
Through our economic development program, we help entrepreneurs navigate the complexities of starting and growing a business, by providing bookkeeping, financial planning, professional development and business planning training and partnering with the State’s excellent small business development practitioners. Feel free to reach out to us anytime by phone or email. We also help businesses get loans through the Island and Coastal Innovation Fund (ICIF). ICIF supports community-focused entrepreneurs, invests in transformative business models and purchase and reallocates assets that we hope will help ensure a diversified economy for the future of Maine’s island and remote coastal communities. Learn more about this loan program here.
We, Bri and Stephenie, will use this blog to highlight innovative island and remote coastal businesses. Links will provide information about the events, webinars, and resources that could help your local businesses thrive. Don’t hesitate share your feedback by posting a comment below. We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas for future posts.
SPOTLIGHT: Island business reaches customers across the world
“Online marketing is powerful,” says Flowfold founder Charley Friedman.
As Friedman knows, building a successful business from an island in Maine requires connecting with customers from here and beyond. Flowfold creates everyday accessories specifically designed to allow you to carry your possessions carefree. Their market now extends coast to coast and even to other countries.
Having grown up on Peaks Island, Friedman understands the need for durable, waterproof products. Flowfold is known for their light, floatable wallets, and also makes a tote bag, without or with waterproof zippers, among other products. Most of the operations are now on the mainland, but Flowfold still ships direct orders from Peaks Island. “As long as we have an internet connection and label printer, we ship out daily,” said Friedman.
From the get-go Flowfold sold products online. “Instagram was brand new when we got started,” he said. “We use primarily Instagram to tell our story and show our products to potential customers.”
“Any product that people like using and improves their life will have a word of mouth momentum. People find out about new products by asking friends and family. What social media does is energizes and magnifies that communication,” said Friedman.
Internet sales have helped Flowfold maintain a steady revenue, instead of experiencing the summer-heavy sales of many Maine retail stores.
Using social media alone is not enough. A business website allowed Flowfold to brand itself by controlling the colors, fonts and photo quality. Friedman said that a website is kind of like a virtual sign for the business. Internet sales have helped Flowfold maintain a steady revenue, instead of experiencing the summer-heavy sales of many Maine retail stores. “That wasn’t something I thought too much about when I started the business, but I did know that on the internet there isn’t that seasonality,” said Friedman.
Friedman says that business websites should be simple and straightforward to use. Customers can also use the internet to compare products; however, “if your competitor’s website is hard to navigate or slow, then customers may be willing to pay a little more for an easier shopping experience,” he said. It’s becoming easier for business owners to develop their own websites. Friedman said, “While I had the time in college to learn on my own, a new business owner can pay someone—there are lots of resources in the state—and they can see a return from that.”
Whichever way you go, patience will be required. “There’s a world of options along the way, and there’s no one right answer, so you have to find what makes sense for your business,” says Friedman.
Flowfold builds gear to carry what you need in pursuit of the moment. In 2011, Island Institute awarded Flowfold a loan under the Island and Coastal Innovation Fund, in order to expand its product line while remaining on Peaks Island.
RESOURCES: Make the most of your online business opportunities
Don’t miss out on using online directories as a no/low cost to promote your business:
- The GoDaddy Small Business Center published a factsheet identifying common online directories and explains how you can claim ownership of your page that already exists.
- Also, make sure your business information is accurate on these state websites: Maine Made, Get Real, Visit Maine; and if you are a member, Maine Tourism and your regional chambers of commerce.
Want more? Explore these SCORE resources for online marketing:
- Building a Strong Online Presence
- Growing Your Web Presence
- Domain Myths Debunked
- 5 Simple and Affordable Social Media Tactics for Your Small Business
- 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Up Your Business Online
Also, check out this great business resource guide from the Small Business Administration: Small Business Administration Maine Resource Guide