PORTLAND, Maine — Growing up in Smithfield, a town without a traffic light, Kyle Poissonnier struck out for Portland as often as he could. As a teenager, taking in a live rock show at the State Theatre was destination No. 1.
The band that made the biggest impact on him was Rustic Overtones. With a hard-driving sound and punchy lyrics, the Portland funk band went on to sign with major music labels and tour the country. Its success impressed the young Poissonnier.
“It enthused me and showed me that you could do something and leave Maine,” he said.
But after graduating from Husson University with a business degree and clothing company underway, leaving Maine for Manhattan didn’t work out for the fledgling entrepreneur.
“When I lived out of state it was hard to make connections,” the 28-year-old said. “Maine people really want to help you out, they really want to get behind you.”
On Friday night he hopes to prove that theory.
Poissonnier tapped five of his favorite Maine-based bands for a concert to kick off his newest venture, dubbed Katalyst. Headlined by Rustic Overtones, the State of the State concert crosses all genres — Christian rock, electronic pop, alt-country, hip-hop, funk.
“Selfishly, I try to pull everything I like together. They may or may not meld,” he said.
Joining the headliners are The Mallett Brothers Band, The Wrecking, Spose and The Other Bones. As the red-headed Mallett brothers fire up their back-porch rockers, Poissonnier will be celebrating a business makeover.
The concert is a springboard for his newest fashion, marketing and fundraising brainstorm. And it’s also an excuse to gather the most eclectic sounds of Maine for one night, he says.
“Metaphorically speaking that’s what we are about, celebrating Maine and the state,” said Poissonier, who is now a Portland resident. “I will be the catalyst for the show, but take a step back.”
He left his first business, Elykssor Clothing, in April to try something new. Ready for a challenge, he describes Katalyst as “a clothing company that’s also a giant fundraising tool.”
A small high school in Maine could have a custom-designed Katalyst T-shirt to raise funds for a ski trip, for example. Ditto a professional ballplayer for his or her charity.
“It’s an easier and better way to raise money. They are getting a custom product, they are not pushing magazine subscriptions or candy in people’s faces,” he said.
By September, he expects to have a full product line featuring custom shirts and fitness and yoga clothes made in America. All will be branded with the Katalyst logo, a three-pronged symbol that’s a “positive shield.”
“You pay attention to what people want. My old company was art-driven. Now, with fashion, people care more about the brand than what’s physically on the shirt,” he said, pointing to companies such as LuLuLemon and Under Armour that encapsulate the concept.
As the youngest person to be inducted into the Husson Hall of Fame, the business major studied the modern consumer’s behavior. Right now, “made-in-America clothes that are custom and limited” are in demand, he said.
An early coup was signing New England Patriot Marquice Cole as the first Katalyst athlete. Poissonnier is designing a shirt for the defensive back, who will use it to benefit his chosen charity.
With his love of music, fashion and marketing dovetailing under the Katalyst umbrella, “it really is an open door. I am not putting limitations on anything.”
That includes his business model.
“We want to be ingrained in local music. I grew up in Maine music and I wanted the music scene to keep going and get bigger,” said Poissonnier. “This is the next logical step.”
The State of the State show is at 7 p.m. Friday, July 12, at the State Theatre, 609 Congress St. For tickets, which are $15 in advance and $20 the day of the show, visit statetheatreportland.com.