Amazon recently announced that Maine ranks third in the nation for fastest-growing small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). There is an obvious correlation between online commerce and rural population. The internet certainly puts goods in the hands of consumers who previously didn’t have access to brick-and-mortar stores. And it gives makers in remote locales access to a wider audience.
But we think this growth also speaks to the entrepreneurial spirit of Maine residents, who have a reputation for ingenuity as well as tenacity. We are so pleased to be associated with spotlighting local businesses and will detail below the effects, as we see them, on the economic impact and fiscal health of our community.
Small businesses are the heart of America. This has been true since the beginning of this country. What has changed, and what is so thrilling to us, is the digital tools now in the hands of almost every startup. A small business can get off the ground, scale, and ultimately compete in a global marketplace – all from the comfort of its home base in Maine. This means that an artisan in Midcoast Maine, with access to local resources particular to her region, can connect with consumers in far off places without leaving home.
What has always made the people of Maine distinct is our ability to adapt and thrive in sometimes hostile environments? We are people who find a niche, whether it’s selling seaweed (by the seashore) or repurposing sails as handbags. And we always found good customers in good neighbors. But growth was limited due to a small populace and distances. Travel constraints meant you could only get as far as your grange hall or farmer’s market. But now, wow. It truly is a global economy, and we can reach individuals on the other side of the Earth. What a network, and opportunity.
The microcosm of the Maine small business, its strong work ethic, and entrepreneurship, is prime for the internet age. The Amazon Handmade marketplace provides a stage for the little guy to shine and gain a large and diverse audience with money to spend on quality products.
There has been a resurgence of interest in things that are handmade and crafted with care. Old techniques, from hand-dying wool to papermaking – ways that never were lost here – were at a loss for enough of a market to be worth it for artists to turn a hobby into a profitable business. Now, they not only survive but thrive. The digital economy means these talented and industrious folks can bring money in, to their home and local economies, without leaving the place they love, the view that inspires, the community from which they draw their strength.
At Greenlight Maine we love to collaborate, and we live to see small- and medium-sized businesses succeed. We support the effort and the entire process, and we mentor the people who make things happen.