The Association for Enterprise Opportunity estimates that nearly nine in 10 American businesses are microbusinesses. In Maine, microenterprises make up 89 percent of all businesses in the state. In other words, of the approximately 150,000 businesses located here, a little more than 133,000 of them are composed of four employees or fewer.
Oftentimes, people are surprised by those statistics; however, the statistics are important to highlight since historically, small businesses have created jobs that in turn helped our economy grow out of previous economic slumps.
In fact, AEO recently found that “if just one in three microbusinesses hired a single employee, the United States would be at full employment.” This campaign, otherwise known as the “power of one in three” brings home just how integral small business is to the economy. Nowhere is that more evident than in Maine.
As an integral part of her business model, Laurie Leader, owner and operator of Leader Property Management in Brunswick, has chosen to work with and support other local businesses. She retained a local attorney to draft the necessary contracts for her business and a local graphic designer to produce her website and provide help with developing her brand.
Leader Property Management is a unique business. Leader explains, “My business is different than other property management firms in the area as I offer personalized attention to my clients. My services are diverse: from tenant finds, full-service management, vacation rental management and a winter watch program for seasonal property owners. I take pride in building solid, long-lasting relationships, and the bulk of my clients are repeat customers.”
Diversity of options and affordability are key to Leader’s business goals. “My goals are creating a variety of housing options for both long-term yearly rentals and short-term vacation rentals. It is important to me that much of what I have to offer is affordable for my client,” she says.
In addition, Leader hires several subcontractors to help operate her business: cleaning companies, landscapers and lawn service professionals, and general contractors. “It is really important to me to work with other local entrepreneurs. I believe that my success is based upon the strong working relationships that I form and that support other local business,” Leader says.
Hence, not only has Leader created a job for herself, she has created work for other small businesses in the community. Given that her business involves vacation rentals, Leader’s venture also brings tourism dollars into the state. It is a win-win for all.
A little closer to the coastline is Steve Potvin, owner and operator of Potvin Construction Inc., located in Harpswell. Like Leader, Potvin is another small-business owner and job creator. A second-generation general contractor, Potvin has been in business for 17 years and his company has six full-time employees. He routinely subcontracts with 10-12 other small businesses, mainly other tradespeople. With every job Potvin takes on, he provides employment opportunities for other small businesses throughout the midcoast.
As Potvin explains, “It works out well — I know these people, I trust in their work and I know that they will deliver their services up to the standards that I and the homeowners expect.” Moreover, Potvin tries to hire only subcontractors who are good communicators and who are willing to take the time to engage with the customer. All of Potvin’s customers are located on three of the four islands that make up the town of Harpswell, and more than half of them are seasonal residents of the islands. Regardless of their residential status, Potvin’s clients clearly are smitten with his high-quality work — his waiting list runs deep and his clients have returned to Potvin Construction Inc. over and over throughout the years.
Leader Property Management and Potvin Construction Inc. are just two distinct examples of the hardworking small business operations for which our state is known. They each are doing their part to provide quality services and beneficial employment. For those of us who own small businesses, it is an age-old model and is undoubtedly the backbone of economic development in Maine.
Jenn Dobransky is the Microenterprise Coordinator for the Midcoast for the Maine Centers for Women, Work, and Community. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.