AUBURN — Former chamber head Matt Leonard has created a new event to match-make entrepreneurial veterans leaving the service with business owners looking to leave their companies to someone else.

Called the Maine Small Business Exchange, it’s being held Feb. 16-17 at the Auburn Hilton Garden Inn.

More than a dozen veterans from around New England have registered so far. Leonard expects a total of 40 to 50 veterans and business owners.

Most of the event takes place Feb. 17 with breakfast, lunch and a day of programming built around selling a business, buying a business, strategic planning, financing and a keynote by Chris Tyll, a U.S. Navy Seal who started two Maine restaurants when he left the service.

Tickets are $125.

Leonard said there’s a lot to be gained in bringing both sides together to talk.


“It’s little interactions that ignite opportunity,” he said. “Veterans are twice as likely as their civilian counterparts to be self-employed. Maine has an aging demographic and a lot of people’s exit strategy has been, ‘Well, I’ll sell my business when I’m ready to retire.’ When a lot of people have aged out and are ready to retire, you have a hard time finding a buyer.”

Leonard is hoping to make it more than a one-time event. A U.S. Navy veteran himself, Leonard founded Military Talent Source last April to match veterans leaving the service with companies looking to hire.

“I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls; there are a lot of people out there looking for opportunities,” he said. “They don’t necessarily consider Maine. When they see what Maine has to offer, it’s suddenly on their radar.”

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Chris Tyll will be the keynote speaker at the Maine Small Business Exchange event in Auburn next weekend. Tyll is a Michigan native who started two restaurants in Maine after serving nine years as a U.S. Navy Seal. (Submitted photo)

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