PORTLAND—Sometimes a brilliant idea for a new business is just a phone call away.
For Sarah Guerette, Director of the CEI Women’s Business Center, that idea sprung from multiple phone calls to the center, which assists aspiring female entrepreneurs.
“We get calls all of the time from individuals who want to shop from women-owned businesses or from institutions looking to hire women specifically,” she said. “And there was no state directory available.”
In the last year, CEI Women’s Business Center has built a new website called the Maine Women’s Business List—a free, public directory of women-owned businesses in Maine, working to raise visibility for the female entrepreneurs powering the economy.
Guerette, going on a percentage of women-owned businesses across the country, estimates that there are approximately 40,000 women-owned businesses in the state of Maine. At the time of this interview more than 300 businesses had signed up on the directory.
According to CEI’s press release: “The companies listed in the directory are searchable by geography, industry, or keyword. All entries are self-reported, and the WBC encourages any business headquartered in Maine and which is also at least 50 percent female-owned, to register. This includes cis women, and also trans women, and femme/feminine-identifying genderqueer and non-binary individuals.”
The categories for each industry are tied to The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments. So, while not every business “fits” the NAICS code classification perfectly, Guerette said the directory encourages the use of specific keywords and hashtags for further personalization.
“We’re pulling from all of those ways to classify each business in the search bar feature on the home page,” she said.
In the Midcoast, the directory is giving a boost to such small companies as Bloom Maine in Belfast, an early childcare education program; LooHoo in Camden, which makes environmentally-friendly wool dryer balls; and Create 3D models, in Union, which offers STEM skills in the form of 3D printing, virtual augmented reality, and coding technology to teachers, parents, and after-school providers. [See attached pdf to this story above the ads in the right-hand column].
In the last two years, hundreds of studies have confirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit women harder economically than men. Many women-owned firms in sectors such as retail, hospitality, and tourism, saw decreased employment when in-person capacity at these establishments became restricted. In addition, there were nearly 10 million mothers in the workforce in 2019 and studies show throughout the pandemic, insufficient and shutdown childcare has directly impacted their work and wages, forcing many to care for the children at home.
“The whole goal for this list was to help women in general, as well as those impacted by the pandemic gain more visibility,” said Guerette. “As a result, we’re hearing that women are starting to pick up more work and contracts just from being featured on this directory.”
The directory is also designed to be used as a tool to help Maine’s female entrepreneurs connect and collaborate with each other. As it just launched in November, Guerette and her team are currently using their time to fine-tune the directory.
“As far as building out more in-person connections, that’s something that’s very much on our radar as a possibility in the future,” she said.
To sign up your business for free go to Maine Women’s Business List
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org