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Business
Posted
Updated March 7
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Five Questions: A look back at influences

Five business owners and executives reflect on the people and circumstances that have influenced them in business.

Amy Bouchard Izzy Bouchard

Amy Bouchard, owner of Wicked Whoopie Pies, Gardiner (November 2019)

That is a little bit of a hard question, because I had no business experience whatsoever. I worked at Bath Iron Works three years, and then I was a stay-at-home mom. I wanted to try to figure out a way to stay home with the kids, but I still had to earn money. So I always baked, and I loved baking, and the whoopie pies was the one thing that I always loved baking. My brother had said right out of the blue, “Well, why don’t you sell your whoopie pies?” And I’m like: Well that’s really weird because nobody’s doing it (at the time). It was over 25 years ago. I’m like, well, nobody sells whoopie pies. I mean you saw them in the mom-and-pop stores a little bit here and there, but I had nothing to lose.

I was completely clueless. I had no idea what I was doing, so I did everything kind of backward. I would call up stores and say, “Hey, I’m going to make whoopie pies.” I didn’t even have a license to do it yet. So they were like, “Oh, that’s nice. You know, when you’re all set up, give us a call.”

I would have to say probably the biggest influence I had came actually after I was making the whoopie pies. I don’t remember the lady’s name, but she owned a muffin bakery and it was called Woodbine Cottage (in Brownfield). And I was so impressed with her because she made muffins, and she had a really good distribution all throughout Maine and into New York. I was lucky enough to tour her bakery. I was so impressed, and I thought, “Oh wow, if only someday I could make as many whoopie pies as she is muffins.” I really, really wanted to also make muffins, but I never wanted to step on her toes. The day I found out she sold her business, I was like I’m all about making muffins now. So we also added a muffin line.

 

Nancy Marshall, chief executive officer Marshall Communications and the PR Maven, Augusta (Nov. 2019)

I think my father (Frank L. Briggs) did. He died in 2006. He always pushed me academically from an early age. We weren’t allowed to watch television during the week. We had a sit down at our desk every night and do homework for two hours. He always said, “You can do or be whatever you want, but you have to be a good student.”

Nancy Marshall

He was an electrical engineer, but he was also in sales, so he had the right brain and left brain going on as far as engineering, but also he was a charismatic person. I watched him, obviously — how he created relationships with his customers, and they really liked him. He loved his work. When I was 17 years old, he had sold the new generator for a new paper machine at Boise Cascade. I actually did up an article for the national Westinghouse magazine (Briggs worked for Westinghouse Electric Corp.) and took the pictures. I was like, “Oh, I love this, this is what I want to do.” He arranged for me to job shadow in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for a whole week with the PR people when I was 17.  So that was really powerful and gave me something to really visualize what I wanted to do.

I had decided I wanted to go to Colby College when I was in eighth grade. I had an older friend who was going there. I went up to visit her and I was like, “Oh my God, this place is so beautiful. I want to go here.” So when I had my admissions interview when I was a senior in high school, I said to the director of admissions (that) I have wanted to come here since I was 13, so he said, “I guess I better let you in.”

I was working at Sugarloaf, and Sugarloaf implemented that program where they would pay for your master’s. Thomas was the logical place to go; it was the closest place to Sugarloaf that had an MBA program. I was working there full-time as director of communications, but I kind of drove my employers crazy because I was always full of ideas, and I think a lot of times they’d be like, “Just do your job.” Finally they said “We think you should start your own business, but we will retain your services.” It was really a good thing because I had a good client the day I started. I had a retainer relationship with Sugarloaf, and I quickly picked up other clients. So that’s how I started Marshall Communications.

 

Sarah Lutte, chief of everything and co-owner of Lazy Acres Farm, Farmingdale (March 2019)

Sarah Lutte

We have two small children, and we really wanted to do something with our lives that illustrates our values and provide a different example for them of what they could do. We were both working 9-to-5 offices jobs. We were gone a lot. We each traveled here and there. There was a big disconnect between that and what we wanted our kids to know. We had been on this property for a long time, and it was kind of calling to us to do something here. We’re both kind of homebodies. Based on those values of ours and our love of gardening, and love of my grandmother’s dahlias, we said there’s a way to carve out a business that’s based here at home and can involve our children. And frankly, our parents and anyone else who wants to help.

Both of my parents have worked for themselves and had their own businesses. My father was a contractor and carpenter for his entire career, worked for himself, never had another boss. I thought, “That looks pretty cool!” He would always joke about giving himself time off. So I definitely knew that could be done. That was a huge influence for us, the way we wanted to spend our days.

It’s not about working less, that’s for sure. When the 16-hour days start in May, I say, “Is this the right decision?” But I’m out here early in the morning before the kids are up harvesting flowers, I think there is no other place I would rather be right now. The other day when I was walking just from here (the greenhouse) to there (the sugar house) and the birds were singing, and I thought, “I haven’t felt this good working in a really long time.” I do have more flexibility to work for me and for my family.

 

Stephanie LaCroix, owner, Engine 5 Bakehouse, Waterville (March 2019)

Stephanie LaCroix Stephanie LaCroix

I don’t think any person actually influenced me. It’s something I always wanted to try. I had tried lots of other things. I’ve had many different careers, ranging from a teacher to a park ranger, to just working for the hospitals, doing office work, that sort of thing. Doing accounts payable, all that. I really enjoyed baking and people like my baking, so I was encouraged to try it as a profession. My undergrad degree is in wildlife biology, of all things.

There’s a satisfaction in seeing that other people enjoy what I make, and making something that actually tastes good and people really get excited about it.

 

Clare Marron, owner and doer of all things, Monkitree, Gardiner (April 2019)

Clare Marron

David and Polly Brooks opened Appalachian Spring in the 1960s, before American craft was even recognized. They helped organize the first Smithsonian festival down on the Mall (the National Mall in Washington, D.C.). They organized the craft tent for that. That was right at the beginning. They are well known in the craft world. Gosh, I learned so much from them in lots of little ways.

From Polly I learned: Don’t buy trouble. Man, does that stay with me. From a product standpoint, if there’s any red flag, if there’s any sense that if it will fall over and break and cost me money or if it will break for a person at home and they are going to come back to me to get their money back, don’t buy it. If you think about it long enough, you know what those problems are going to be, so just don’t buy it. Save yourself the headache. I think that holds true of larger issues. If you pay attention, you will know what will cause trouble.


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