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Free Meet the Lenders event to help entrepreneurs

By David M. Fitzpatrick

Of The Weekly Staff

If you’ve always wanted to start a small business, or have one but don’t know how to take it to the next level, then the upcoming Meet the Lenders event in Bangor might be just for you.

Meet the Lenders will take place 1-4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 30, at Rangeley Hall on the Eastern Maine Community College campus. The free event will allow entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to representatives from 23 lenders and small-business advocacy groups.

“It’s a golden opportunity to meet different lenders at one time, or service providers, and have [entrepreneurs] see what their options are — and to determine feasibility,” said Pat Rice, chapter chair of Bangor SCORE.

The process works like speed dating. Attendees pick six lenders and service providers they’d like to meet with; then, they spend 15 minutes with one of them before moving on to the next. The lender representatives are the people who do the lending, so it’s a chance to get real-world, expert feedback about business ideas immediately.

The event will be presented by the Bangor SCORE, Maine Small Business Development Centers, the U.S. Small Business Administration, Coastal Enterprises Inc., and the Maine Centers for Women, Work & Community.

The first such event was held at the Augusta Civic Center in 2012. Twenty lenders and 10 resource partners met with 47 attendees from across the state.

“For our first event, I was pleased,” said SBA District Director Marilyn Geroux.

Everyone learned a lot from that event, she said, such as the need to focus on local Meet the Lenders events. The next one was in Fort Kent in January, but a massive snowstorm resulted in only two attendees. The next event in Presque Isle saw 14 attendees and as many lenders and partners. Other events are in the works for the Midcoast, Sagadahoc County, western Maine, and Washington County.

“I’ve already gotten calls from a couple of banks saying that they’ve made deals from the connections that they made,” she said.

That’s key to the success of such programs. Many entrepreneurs feel intimidated by lenders or feel the lenders’ goal is to not help them, but the reverse is true: They want to lend money to good business ideas.

“They want to be a part of it,” said Geroux. “And the resource partners want the businesses to be prepared to go to a lender.”

The most important thing for any small business, whether launching or expanding, is to have a comprehensive business plan. The business plan is a tool prospective lenders need to gauge the feasibility of an idea, and creating one is the best way for people to fully understand their business ideas.

Luckily, Mainers are in good hands. The many organizations involved in Meet the Lenders regularly work closely together to help small businesses succeed.

“It takes all of us to grow a small business,” said Geroux. “I don’t think any of us could do it alone, but together we can make it happen.”

For information or to register, visit sba.gov/content/meet-lenders-bangor.

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