Launchpad program will help small business owners

Island Institute has suite of programs tailored to island, remote coastal entrepreneurs

March 8, 2017

Kevin Wentworth aboard The Result.

Kevin Wentworth aboard The Result, a water taxi operating from Chebeague Island that benefited from the Island Institute's Launchpad program.

Posted March 8, 2017

Last modified March 20, 2017

The Island Institute’s economic development programming focuses on the idea that interlinked, strong and diverse businesses will make island and remote coastal communities not only sustainable, but help them thrive.

We know that helping individual entrepreneurs succeed is a key way we can help enhance a strong coastal economy. With support from the John T. Gorman Foundation, we recently rolled out our Island and Coastal Business Launchpad program—a comprehensive suite of small business support services that include small business counseling, professional development grants, loans and financial and digital literacy trainings.

Many island and coastal business owners have told us that our understanding of their commitment to sustaining their community supports them in their efforts. We also have heard that having access to patient, flexible capital is essential for their community-focused businesses to work.

We know that living in a geographically isolated community challenges entrepreneurs. It’s more difficult for them to access professional development and financial training, because of travel constraints and money lost from leaving the business for an extended period. 

But we work to make it easy to become involved with our program at the individual or community level—just reach out to anyone on our economic development team at the Institute and we will work with you to identify how we can help your business.

Here are some examples of ways we can help:

  • Business Support: If you have questions about starting a new business or expanding your current business, we can work with you to build a solid business plan and help you move forward with your idea.
  • Island and Coastal Innovation Fund: We provide flexible and community-focused loans for entrepreneurs looking for a lender that understands their community and is able to provide the business support necessary to make the business successful.
  • Microgrants for Entrepreneurship and Community Impact: These are small grants to businesses intended to help Launchpad participants access professional development opportunities and/or grow and strengthen their business
  • Digital and financial literacy classes: We offer seminars to help groups of fishermen, bookkeepers and businesspeople improve their accounting or advertising skills. We offer free classes like “QuickBooks for Business” or “Social Media for Business” for island and coastal residents.
  • Aquaculture Business Development Program: We are currently accepting applications for our program that helps to get fishermen and community members start oyster, mussel or seaweed farms. See our website for more details on how to apply; applications close at the end of March. 

Through the Launchpad program, we’ve already met people with inspiring and innovative business ideas. We’ve worked with someone starting an island’s only water taxi, supported a smoked lobster business, helped with business planning for island farmers, worked with seaweed farmers and processors, helped people get into oyster aquaculture, and worked with many other talented entrepreneurs who are focused on living and working in their communities.

Check our website for more information on our business support programs, or to subscribe to our Commercial Currents newsletter focused on best business practices. We are eager to work with any type of island and remote coastal business, so if you are a fisherman looking to diversify or add value to your product, an innkeeper, a grocery store owner, or a farmer, please give us a call!

Briana Warner is director of the Island Institute’s economic development office. The Island Institute is publisher of The Working Waterfront.

Contributed by

Briana Warner