Small business targeted

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AUBURN – A cadre of top-notch executives from local companies is gathering to share expertise and advice in the first governor’s conference on small business in the area.

The conference, slated for March 20, is being organized by Central Maine Community College to improve opportunities for small business owners and those who want to become ones.

“We’ve seen the need,” said Diane Dostie, dean of CMCC’s corporate and community services department and chief organizer of the event. She said she sees students who want to launch their own businesses and don’t know how, as well as the need for assistance from chamber of commerce members when she was on the chamber board.

“People don’t realize how much work it is,” she said, adding she speaks from experience since her husband owned a small construction company. “It’s important to have support people out there.”

The conference – the first in western Maine – showcases business resource agencies and organizations from Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties, giving rise to its name, Afox Small Business Conference. More than two dozen seminars are also planned, ranging from writing a business plan to cash flow basics and networking effectively.

“It’s designed for emerging businesses and for people who are entertaining starting a business,” said Jan Barrett, owner of Ware Street Inn and one of the conference organizers. “It’ll allow people to get a realistic view of owning your own business and how to pull it all together.”

The conference is modeled after a regional seminar presented in Machias for the past three years that integrated local businesses. Gov. John Baldacci was impressed enough to ask that similar regional business conferences be offered throughout the state twice a year via the community college system and the Maine Small Business Development Centers.

Dostie is looking for conference sponsors at $250 and up to help spread the word.

“We have presenters from different counties and we’re looking for sponsorship to help pay for the marketing,” Dostie said. “We hope to get 200 people to attend. There’s enough of a need out there and folks could use it.”

Motivational speaker Michelle Neujahr of Yarmouth is the keynote luncheon speaker. A national presenter on topics from professional development to renewing workplace morale, Neujahr is known for delivering high-energy, productive presentations with humor and insight.

Several panel discussions are also planned. Effective marketing is the focus of one, with presenters Brenda Garrand of Garrand & Co., Dick Gleason of CNN1240 radio, Jeff Haggerty of the Sun Journal, and Karen Gilbert of Gilbert Creative Designs.

Another panel gives three local entrepreneurs the stage to talk about the challenges they faced as start-ups. The presenters are Susan Eminger of Eminger Berries; Tammy Begin-Leblanc of the Yoga Center of Maine; and Laurie Ouellette of Sweet Pea Designs.

Dostie said organizers made it a point to recruit experts from all three counties to give the conference regional appeal. If it is successful, they hope to make the conference an annual event.

For a complete list of seminars and presenters, visit afoxsmallbusiness.cmcc.edu. Cost to attend is $25, if registered before March 12.

What: Afox Small Business Conference

When: 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., March 20

Where: Central Maine Community College, Auburn

Cost: $25

Information: http://afoxsmallbusiness.cmcc.edu; 755-5280

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