The second annual UMaine Business Challenge for student entrepreneurs recently awarded thousands of dollars in cash and consulting services to a University of Southern Maine student and three UMaine finalists.
Tom Myers, a USM mechanical engineering student from Gray, Maine, won the grand prize of $5,000, as well as the $4,000 technology prize and consulting services donated by sponsors to promote his business, ABC Firewood.
Spencer Wood, a UMaine communications and human development double major from Salisbury, N.H., won the second-place prize of $1,000, as well as patent and law consulting for his business, Body Guard Fitness.
The other finalists, Henry Bonneau, a UMaine civil engineering major from Skowhegan who owns Bonneau & Son Excavation, and Matthew Hodgkin, a UMaine animal science major from Colebrook, Conn., who co-owns LobsteRX, won consulting time with sponsors and judges.
The UMaine Business Challenge (UBC) was started by 2010 UMaine graduates Owen McCarthy, James Morin, Matt Ciampa and Sangam Lama to support and promote new businesses started by UMaine students and to improve Maine’s economy. This year, the team was joined by marketing representative Hannah Hudson, also a 2010 UMaine graduate.
“We started UBC because we are passionate about UMaine and the state,” McCarthy says. “We saw this as an opportunity to pay it forward. It is our goal to see UBC alumni leading the state in economic growth and development while giving back to the university in their time, talent and treasure.”
The competition is sponsored by Maine Technology Institute, Blackstone Accelerates Growth, University Credit Union, UMaine Class of 1944, UMaine Class of 1980, UMaine Class of 2010, Maine Business School, University of Southern Maine, Opticliff ESQ, The Swanson Group LLC, Maine News Simply and WLOB Radio.
The four finalists were chosen after rounds of competition including an intent to participate stage, questionnaire and executive summary. The finalists were then asked to submit complete business plans to a panel of judges including James Page, University of Maine System chancellor; Jesse Moriarity, coordinator of UMaine’s Foster Center for Student Innovation; Jason Harkins, Maine Business School professor; John F. Burns, fund manager for Small Enterprise Growth, Maine’s Venture Capital Fund; Meredith Strang Burgess, president and CEO of Burgess Advertising & Marketing; Gregory Cavanaugh, program manager for external programs at University of Southern Maine; and Marc Brunelle and Brent Larlee, UMaine alumni and entrepreneurs.
The finalists share the same goal of promoting businesses in Maine.
Tom Myers, ABC Firewood
The idea for Myers’ startup business began when he came across a YouTube video of a commercially produced firewood processor.
“I was analyzing the production process and got thinking about all the inefficiencies in the design,” Myers says. “I thought about how I would do things differently and the idea grew from there.”
Myers, who will graduate in 2015, says he wants his business to be a leading provider in high-quality, affordable firewood in southern Maine.
“Through the use of innovative, custom-designed processing equipment we will be able to keep production rates and quality high while keeping costs down to a minimum,” Myers says. “We are also aiming to completely change the way firewood is sold.”
Myers says there is currently no quantifiable number as to how much heat a delivery of wood produces. ABC Firewood plans to use a new method for quantifying the heat output of a wood delivery to ensure clients are getting the most for their money and to help weed out dishonest suppliers.
Winning first place in the challenge as well as the technology prize through MTI and Blackstone will allow Myers to begin operations immediately through startup funds, establishing contacts and strengthening business skills.
“By winning, my business plan was suddenly backed and supported by many different people all vowing for its viability,” Myers says. “It gave me the confidence and knowledge necessary to get the ball rolling and start my own business. I think this is a huge obstacle to overcome for any entrepreneur, but an even larger one for a young entrepreneur.”
Spencer Wood, Body Guard Fitness
Wood, who graduated in May and plans to return to UMaine to get his master’s degree in human development, got the idea for his business while playing for the UMaine football team.
“I needed something to keep my body in peak physical condition that I could take on the road and use in the residence halls when I was living on campus,” Wood says.
He describes his business as “the first of its kind.”
“This revolutionary product in full-body fitness and mobility will transform the fitness industry and bodies alike,” Wood says. “It is a unique combination of push-up grip and resistance-band technologies that come together to provide a comprehensive and demanding full-body workout.”
Wood’s goal is for the Body Guard to become a household name and a familiar product in the fitness world. He wants his product to be known for giving users confidence.
Since the challenge, Wood has worked with some of the judges and the Foster Center and is confident the money and counseling he won will greatly affect his business.
“If my product is patentable, which it looks it is, the sky will be the limit,” Wood says.
Henry Bonneau, Bonneau & Son Excavation
Bonneau started his excavation business in May 2012 with a 4-yard dump truck, skid steer and backhoe to complete lawn and residential drainage work. By the end of the summer, he was able to purchase a bulldozer that allowed him to also clear land, put in driveways, dig septic systems and complete large-scale landscaping.
Bonneau says his advertising strategy and eagerness to find work helped him have a successful first year and allowed him to purchase a full-sized 18-yard dump truck.
Last summer’s jobs included septic systems and house lots, as well as larger projects such as working on a $350,000 residential reconstruction project and a land rehabilitation and repair project for Central Maine Power.
Bonneau, who plans to graduate in 2015, wants his company to grow and differentiate itself from other Maine contractors.
“I aspire to emphasize green and ‘low-impact’ construction while incorporating today’s most innovative construction methods and materials,” Bonneau says, adding he already has plans to construct a bioretention cell, or natural soil filter, and look into innovative materials such as tire-derived aggregates.
Bonneau believes the consulting services he won and connections he made from the UMaine Business Challenge will benefit his company.
“I suggest any and all entrepreneurs who are aware of this competition and are anxious to get their business off the ground [or in my case, develop it further] should take full advantage of this opportunity,” Bonneau says.
Matthew Hodgkin, LobsteRX
Hodgkin, who expects to graduate in May 2015, decided to start a business with his partners, Lobster Institute Executive Director Robert Bayer, Lobster Institute Associate Director Cathy Billings, and Stewart Hardison, a business partner from outside the UMaine community, after the four had a conversation about lobster industry waste.
“Our business is taking the lobster processing by-products and trying to find uses for them,” Hodgkin says. “So far we have had success in that we have come across certain antiviral and antineoplastic properties.”
Hodgkin and his partners aim to create products from lobster-processing industry waste. Their goal is to get more money to lobstermen and improve Maine’s economy.
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.381.3747
The Associated Press, Bangor Daily News, WABI (Channel 5) and WLBZ (Channel 2) were among several news organizations to cover the University of Maine’s 211th commencement. 1,665 students graduated Saturday and more than 12,000 people attended the ceremonies.
EarthTechling and 93.7 the Wave recently reported on last week’s unveiling of a floating platform of VolturnUS, a first-of-its-kind offshore wind turbine, at the University of Maine. The turbine will be deployed off Maine’s coast at the end of the month and is expected to be the first grid-connected floating wind turbine in North America and the first concrete-composite floating turbine in the world.
Upward of 12,000 people attended the University of Maine’s 211th Commencement at Harold Alfond Sports Arena May 11 and heard remarks by alumnus Lawrence Bender, the producer of films that have won a total of six Academy Awards.®
This academic year, 1,665 students — 1,333 undergraduate and 332 graduate students — earned degrees from UMaine.
A 10 a.m. ceremony was held for graduates in the College of Business, Public Policy and Health; the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the College of Education and Human Development; and the Division of Lifelong Learning. Graduates in the College of Engineering and the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture were recognized at a 2:30 p.m. ceremony.
UMaine President Paul Ferguson, who presided over the ceremonies, encouraged the students to invest their talent, success and great achievements in enriching the world and improving the quality of life of those around them. The hope, he said, is that the students’ experiences and education at UMaine have inspired them to dare and to “achieve greatly.”
“You can be confident that your UMaine education represents the very best of Maine and that you, in turn, represent the very best of Maine,” Ferguson said. “It is with great pride that I remind you that UMaine is now forever a part of your identity, just as you are the legacy of the University of Maine.”
UMaine awarded an honorary degree to film producer Lawrence Bender, whose noteworthy projects such as “Inglourious Basterds,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Good Will Hunting” have been honored with 29 Academy Award® nominations, including three for Best Picture. His film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which raised unprecedented awareness about climate change, won the Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature.
In his remarks, which included a standing ovation, Bender said he would not have the life he lives today if not for his University of Maine experience, and he urged the students to find success through consistent hard work and persistence.
“How can you achieve greatness? I would say three basic things,” said Bender, who graduated from UMaine in 1979 with a degree in civil engineering. “One, you must find your passion. Two, failure must be a possibility. And three, never give up, especially when you are failing.”
“The ability to allow yourself to fail is the ability to allow yourself to go full on and to break boundaries. Many times it’s only by failing that you find the real truth. And this is not esoteric, this is basic to the heart of all entrepreneurism.”
Other Commencement speakers included students Emma Burgess Roy of Auburn, Maine, a graduating senior in international affairs, with a concentration in women’s studies; and Lindsay LaJoie of Van Buren, Maine, a graduating senior in food science and human nutrition.
LaJoie is the 2013 salutatorian. The 2013 valedictorian is Spencer Hathaway of Turner, Maine, who received two bachelor’s degrees — economics and business administration in accounting.
Also honored at Commencement, as well as at a Faculty Appreciation and Recognition Luncheon today, were four faculty members in physics, insect ecology, finance and computer science. Professor of Physics Robert Lad, director of UMaine’s Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology is the 2013 Distinguished Maine Professor, an award presented by the University of Maine Alumni Association in recognition of outstanding achievement in the university’s mission of teaching, research and public service.
Professor of Insect Ecology Francis “Frank” Drummond is the 2013 Presidential Research and Creative Achievement Award recipient. This year’s Presidential Outstanding Teaching Award recipient is Professor of Finance Richard Borgman. Professor of Computer Science George Markowsky is the recipient of the Presidential Public Service Achievement Award.
University of Maine System Board of Trustees members Samuel Collins and retired Adm. Gregory Johnson, a UMaine alumnus, delivered greetings from the board in the morning and afternoon sessions, respectively.
Alumna Samantha Lott Hale, chair of the University of Maine Alumni Association Board of Directors, welcomed the new graduates to the ranks of the more than 105,000 University of Maine alumni worldwide.
Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745
The Maine Public Broadcasting Network and Recharge News reported on the University of Maine’s unveiling Wednesday of a floating platform of VolturnUS, a first-of-its-kind offshore wind turbine. The turbine will be deployed off Maine’s coast at the end of the month and is expected to be the first grid-connected floating wind turbine in North America and the first concrete-composite floating turbine in the world.
The Bangor Daily News, WABI (Channel 5), WLBZ (Channel 2) and WVII (Channel 7) were among several news organizations to report on the University of Maine’s unveiling Wednesday of a floating platform of VolturnUS, a first-of-its-kind offshore wind turbine. The turbine will be deployed off Maine’s coast at the end of the month and will be the first grid-connected floating wind turbine in North America and the first concrete-composite floating turbine in the world, according to Habib Dagher, director of the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center. North American Windpower also carried a report.
Maine Sen. Angus King mentioned a University of Maine project in a recent interview with Environment & Energy Publishing (E&E). Angus said he is “really excited” about a project at UMaine to generate power from biomass pellets.
The University of Maine Professional Employees Advisory Council (PEAC) has named Dwane Hutto, Forest Bioproducts Research Institute (FBRI) project manager, and Barbara Ouellette, Honors College coordinator of student academic services and budget, the winners of the 2013 Outstanding Professional Employee Award.
The PEAC selects winners based on the employee’s actions and achievements beyond work responsibilities that positively affect their field, the university and community.
Each winner is awarded $1,000 in recognition of his or her contributions, and will be honored at the Employee Recognition and Achievement Reception and Awards Program May 21.
As project manager, Hutto oversees FBRI’s administrative functions, coordinates project work and collaborates with the institute’s executive director to ensure the efficiency of operations.
Hutto joined FBRI in 2008 after working for three years in the UMaine Process Development Center as group leader in pulping.
FBRI members credit Hutto with being instrumental in helping increase the institute’s support staff from three professionals to six, designing and overseeing the construction of new office space in Jenness Hall, and getting students interested in engineering through department tours and his involvement with the Consider Engineering program.
Hutto is also working with a local middle school teacher to bring engineering principles to the classroom and is designing a workshop to provide hands-on experiences, according to Amy Luce, FBRI technology research center manager who nominated Hutto for the award.
Ouellette, who has served the university for more than 30 years, is responsible for coordinating student academic services and handling the Honors College budget. She has served as an adviser to the dean, and is credited with guiding and supporting the college and interim dean after last year’s unexpected death of Honors College Dean Charlie Slavin. Ouellette also advises and teaches students in the Explorations Program, and acts as a liaison between the Honors College and other colleges on campus.
Ouellette aided in the selection of a new Honors College dean, has served on the Associate Deans and Directors Committee, trained Honors associates, served on Honors thesis committees, worked on the Honors College publication “Minerva,” and coordinated and attended the annual National Collegiate Honors Council Conference.
In addition to her work at UMaine, Ouellette has been involved in the community, volunteering in the NICU at Eastern Maine Medical Center, quilting blankets for children in crisis, serving as a Maine Swimming Association official, and being a United Way team and unit leader.
Ouellette’s professionalism, knowledge, commitment and compassion has greatly influenced the Honors College culture and community, says Melissa Ladenheim, adjunct associate professor in Honors who nominated Ouellette for the award.
The University of Maine is accepting applications from area middle school students for its Maine Summer Transportation Institute. The free two-week program will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 8–19 on the UMaine campus.
The institute is supported by Civil Rights Offices of the Federal Highway Administration and Maine Department of Transportation, along with the UMaine College of Engineering.
As many as 20 students from Greater Bangor will get a close look at engineering and transportation careers during the program designed to introduce students at an early age to jobs available in Maine’s transportation industry.
Activities will focus on electrical, mechanical, chemical and civil engineering as well as physical sciences. Students will participate in field trips, leadership and team-building activities, and workshops with hands-on laboratory experiences in areas related to transportation such as air-flight simulation, wind energy and computer-aided design.
The majority of the activities will take place at the Foster Center for Student Innovation, engineering labs on campus and various off-campus locations. Students also will participate in physical activities at the New Balance Student Recreation Center.
For more information or to request disability accommodations, call Sheila Pendse, 207.581.2225.
Application forms are available online at umaine.edu/msti.
Applications and required documents may be mailed to: MSTI, Dean’s Office, College of Engineering, 213 AMC Building, University of Maine, Orono 04469. Deadline for registration is May 31.
Mainebiz reported Lewiston startup Karkos Group LLC is working on a prototype blender that’s quieter than the competition in the commercial and high-end home blender markets. Using a seed grant, the business had independent tests of its motor run by the University of Maine’s Advanced Manufacturing Center against other commercial blenders.