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Island and Coastal Innovation Fund

Strengthening and diversifying community economies is a goal of the Island Institute. The Island and Coastal Innovation Fund (ICIF) supports community-focused entrepreneurs, invests in transformative business models, and purchases and reallocates assets that will ensure a diversified economy for the future of Maine’s island and remote coastal communities. Microgrants for Entrepreneurship and Community Impact (MECI) are available to ICIF loan recipients who demonstrate need in order to meet the community impact and professional development goals detailed in the ICIF loan application.

HOW IT WORKS

ICIF provides loans between $5,000 and $50,000 to those in the geographical area of the populated year-round unbridged islands in the Gulf of Maine and in the coastal communities on which those islands depend, for business projects that are community focused, will sustain and/or add jobs in those communities, and help add to the economic diversity of the region, as measured by the Island Institute Community Impact Indicators. For eligible ICIF recipients, MECI provides funds necessary for meeting these Indicators.

KEY FACTORS

  • Determine eligibility. Most of these types of loans target businesses or business owners who are focused on a mission goal. Some revolving loan funds are only eligible to entrepreneurs who cannot access traditional bank loans, while others are focused on meeting a specific goal. In order to be eligible for ICIF funding, the applicant must prove that the investment will impact the local community through one or more the Island Institute Community Impact Indicators.
  • Meet the mission. These loans almost always have an explicit mission or purpose. Think of the application as a match-making process rather than just seeking a service provided to business owners. It will be important to show how your business accomplishes the broader mission of the funder and not just a revenue stream.
  • Consider the advantages and disadvantages. Typically, these types of loans come with higher interest rates, but there are benefits that may not be available from traditional loan sources. For example, ICIF provides the opportunity to start a business that is focused on community impact. Some of these types of loans have built-in flexibility around loan repayment, such as deferred first payments or associated grant funding in addition to loans.
  • Write a business plan. Just like traditional financial institutions, these types of loan programs require a solid, well researched business plan. For those with no business expertise or background, business planning may seem like a daunting task. The good news is there are programs and technical assistance to help you find the confidence you need to pursue your business idea successfully. Learn more about the Island and Coastal Business Launchpad.
  • Get personal. Because these types of loans often go to higher-risk business ideas, loan fund staff want to know about the business and its owners in great detail. Be prepared to share in great detail all aspects of the business, and to share your personality as it relates to the meeting the loan fund mission and to successfully implementing your business idea. The application process is likely to involve providing financial histories.

Q & A WITH AMANDA MOESER

Scott Sell

Amanda Moeser, Lanes Island Oysters

Q: What attracted you to shellfish aquaculture?
A: I worked at a mussel and seaweed farm when I was in graduate school, and I became really interested in aquaculture from both an environmental perspective and an economic perspective: I feel like you can grow nutritious food and have a net positive impact on the environment, and that was something I wanted to be doing with my life. 

Q: What were some of the obstacles you encountered along the way?
A: Rather than going to mussel farming, I chose to go into oyster aquaculture because it’s a business I can run independently and work for myself part-time. One of the hurdles in getting started was finding the right spot with the least amount of conflict in users. And then, I was a graduate student and working part-time at the shellfish farm, and I didn't have a lot of money in the bank, so finding money for oyster seed and growing equipment was one of the challenges.

Q: In looking for money to start an oyster farm, how did you find out about ICIF?
A: I'd say I started seriously considering an oyster business when I participated in the Aquaculture Business Development program, when I did most of the paperwork and planning and seeking grants and financial support. Through the program I learned about the Island and Coastal Innovation Fund, so I was able to apply for a small business loan to receive money to purchase all of the gear and seed I needed for the first year of operations. I think there are other opportunities for funding on the large scale, but as I was doing a small startup and looking at a minimal investment, this was an appropriate venue.

Q: How did you decide on ICIF?
A: It's just a little more personal because you know the people that are running and operating the program, and I trusted, based on my experience, that Island Institute has my best interest at heart. One thing about oyster farming is that it takes three years in Maine to grow an oyster to market size, and I won't see any revenue or profits for at least three years, so having deferred payments on the loan is a huge advantage.

Q: You also took advantage of the Microgrants for Entrepreneurship and Community Impact, right?
A: I was really fortunate, in addition to the loan, to receive a small grant that enabled me to purchase equipment for surveying my site, for potential expansion, to map out the different bottom conditions, as well as water quality and environmental monitoring.

RESULTS

  • Amanda obtained funding to launch her business, rather than having to first prove successful production and actual revenue.
  • With a microgrant, Amanda purchased monitoring equipment, which will help measure potential environmental benefits to share with the broader community.
  • After working through the Aquaculture Business Development program, Amanda Moeser would say to others thinking about starting an aquaculture farm, "Stop thinking about it, and just do it!"

RESOURCES