LEWISTON — Bates College held its annual “Bobcat Ventures” competition on April 1. The entrepreneur contest is funded and judged by Bates alumnae. Students who enter are coached ahead of time to make a two-minute pitch for their business venture idea. The judging panel then questions them.

Last summer a Bates junior, Ali Rabideau, was at the Center for Wisdom’s Women as an intern funded by the Harward Center for Community Partnerships at Bates. Rabideau’s task was to help expand the Center’s social enterprise project by involving more women and increasing its gardening and production capacity. She wrote her senior thesis on the Center, titled “Let Our Stories Scatter the Seeds.”

At this year’s entrepreneur competition, Rabideau pitched the idea of the little social enterprise that she had helped create, now called Herban Works. The project is to grow calendula and other herbs and have women process them into healing products for sale. Its goal is to provide a safe and meaningful work experience for a cause, in-house, and eventually offer some income to women.

There were nine entries in this year’s Bobcat Ventures. Rabideau won first place and she is giving the $9,000 award to the Center to continue the work. The judges, who each had considerable expertise as successful entrepreneurs or investors, said Rabideau’s pitch for Herban Works was the clear first place winner because of its strong ties to the mission of the Center and because some products had already been produced and sold.

Bates College and the Harward Center for Community Outreach have a unique vision for partnership work in the community. Instead of hosting their own community programs, Bates places students in local non-profits to work and do research. The students bring talent, are committed and make a difference in the city. 

Bates also has a student led grant program called The Carignan Fund for Community Programs which gives grants of up to $2,000 to community organizations to support programming that fosters new and strengthens existing connections between Bates College and the community. It gives students a real experience of the granting process. The Center has twice been the recipient of program grants from that source. The recent one is providing materials and supplies needed to expand this summer’s growing capacity.


Nearly every day that school is in session, a Bates student is at the Center. Some are there only for a semester as part of a community engagement class project. Others are work-study students who regularly work as administrative and program support. In their second year are Erin Hazlett-Norman and Lisa Slivken. Rabideau was the second summer intern, and this year Grace Jackovich will carry on where Rabideau left off.

Rabideau will be at the Center at 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 2, to share her pitch and talk about the work last summer. The public may attend.

Volunteers are needed to help with this summer’s gardens. Those interested may contact the Center.

FMI: www.wisdomswomen.org, bit.ly/2o0baK5.

Bates College interns, from left, Lisa Slivken, Erin Hazlett-Norman and Ali Rabideau pick calendula in 2016 at the Center for Wisdom’s Women, where they interned. Rabideau recently won the Bobcat Ventures competition at the school.

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