How to “Stand Up” Maine

Three years ago, a friend of mine “stood up” a village in Africa. She and some work colleagues signed up to participate in a Give Movement Journey from Suzanne Evans & Hills of Africa Travel. They went to an African village, dug a well, built a school and a medical facility, and brought medical supplies. They also took the women of the village to nearby towns to teach them how to market and sell their products. This way they could sustain the work of my friend and her colleagues, and make sure the village survived for generations to come.

When my friend returned from Africa, she described her experience to me, and the impact it had on both her and the African villagers. As I listened, I knew in that moment that I would do the same thing. Only I wanted to do it here in Maine, for Maine children and Maine entrepreneurs.

Maine has a long history of entrepreneurship. For a state with a small population, we’ve made a major national impact with brands such as Toms of MaineLL BeanAngela AdamsSea BagsThos. MoserBass, and Shipyard Brewing Co.

Mainers are hard workers, and I’m in awe of the spirit and ingenuity of our many entrepreneurs. But the sad fact is, a lot of new businesses don’t make it. That’s not because they’re not based on good ideas, and it’s not because people don’t want or need the products and services they create. It’s because they don’t have the business, operations and sales acumen to go the distance.

How can we make sure Mainers have the skills they need to succeed at entrepreneurship?

At a recent networking event, I met the president of Junior Achievement of Maine (JA)—our local branch of a national organization that is dedicated to teaching K-12 students entrepreneurial skills. Junior Achievement is in all 50 states, and several major cities have their own branches.

Our JA serves all of Maine. It is staffed by four people, is independently funded through donations and grants, and is currently operating in the red. Even so, its programs reached over 11,000 Maine students this year.

JA pairs volunteers from the professional world with local K-12 classrooms to teach prepared lessons related to economics, finance or entrepreneurship. Their philosophy is, if you teach a child to fish, she can feed her family for generations to come.

Studies show that students who are exposed to JA are: 

  • More likely to graduate from high school
  • More likely to continue their education
  • More likely to have steady, mid- to upper-level jobs
  • More likely to be entrepreneurs and job creators, and
  • Less likely  to be unemployed, hungry or homeless

So what if JA could reach more than just 11,000 of Maine’s approximately 190,000 K-12 students? What if JA could reach every Maine child? I’m convinced that would result in a much stronger economic future for our state. So as a business owner, employer, mother and lifelong Mainer, it is in my best interest to do what I can to help.

That’s why 19 Oaks has chosen to give JA a Strategic Sales & Marketing Plan for 2015, and why we are implementing it for them for free. That’s why our whole team has become JA volunteers. And that’s why I’m asking you to get involved as well, by volunteering in a Maine classroomdonating to fund JA,or just spreading the word. Together, we can get JA out of the red and into more Maine classrooms. We can share our professional experience and entrepreneurial spirit with the next generation. We can “stand up” Maine.