Janet Eugley explained to two bankers how the device she designed can help pregnant women more easily hear the heartbeat of their developing babies.
At another table at the Augusta Civic Center, Rachel Crommett made her pitch to a suit-clad banker, seeking a loan to expand her family's West Forks lodge and outfitting business by adding a kennel to offer dog training and boarding.
They had just 15 minutes to make an impression.
The quick sessions came during the first U.S. Small Business Administration-organized Meet the Lenders Speed Banking Conference in Maine. The event was meant to give small business owners a chance to talk directly with lenders and make their pitch for financing, and also get free technical assistance developing their business plans and loan proposals, according to Maurice Dube, SBA district director for Maine.
It was a chance for Eugley, founder of Damariscotta-based EchoHeart, to seek financing to help market the $900 fetal Doppler probe the firm designed and sells. It allows doctors, nurses, midwives and other medical professionals to check for early fetal heartbeats, without the need for a much more expensive ultrasound.
She said bringing the device to the market has been a 10-year effort; it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006, and is patented in the United States and Canada. Eugley said the device provides mothers-to-be peace of mind by allowing them to hear the heartbeat inside them and, if its use grows, could save millions of dollars by decreasing the use of more expensive methods of detecting such heartbeats.
But for it to grow, she needs money to market it -- money that has been hard to come by during the economic slump.
"It has been hard, people are not willing to take on risk," Eugley said. "Investors have been a bit shy. All the hard parts are done, the designing, the manufacturing. A loan is all we need, at this point, to keep our rhythm going."
Jerry Jarrell and Bradley Galley, of Machias Savings Bank, were impressed after 15minutes of face time with Eugley. Galley gave her his card and said he hoped to meet with her again to discuss a loan for the business in more detail.
"She's got a potential world-changer, a great idea," said Jarrell, vice president of commercial banking for Machias Savings Bank.
Crommett, whose family business Fifteen Mile Lodge and Outfitters has been offering guide service, lodging and dining for 10 years in West Forks, hoped to find a lender willing to give a loan so they can expand to also offer a dog kennel at the business. She said part of her pitch to lenders would be explaining how the kennel could give people visiting the area to raft or snowmobile a safe place to leave their pets. She had a large bag containing her business plan and other documents, which she discussed during her 15 minutes with John Quesnel of Peoples United Bank.
Jeanne Hulit, associate administrator for capital access for the SBA, said that unlike Crommett, some small business owners don't come prepared with business plans when they first sit down with potential lenders. That can present an obstacle to successful lending.
"Small business owners are entrepreneurs, they're creative, they understand their business well, but they don't always understand the world of bankers," Hulit said. "They may not be skilled at putting together a business plan. Banks are for-profit business; they want to get paid back. So tell your story, but tell the story in a way that banker is going to be able" to document the business will be able to succeed.
She suggested small business owners meet first with experts, many of whom were on hand at Wednesday's event, for advice on formulating a business plan.
Nicole Jackson, representing Tim Jackson Salvage on Route 17 in Washington, figured she had a pretty good business case to present for her father's metal salvaging business, for which she manages the money.
"It's a no-brainer investing in recycling metals right now," she said, adding metal prices are high and the business hopes to expand. "It's growing so fast."
Barbara Bright and Allen Curtis both have small businesses in Readfield, but that's not why they were at Wednesday's event. Instead, they were there to represent the Readfield Enterprise Fund, a recently established program that has about $150,000 in federal grant money to share with Readfield small businesses, or potential small businesses. The funding is especially meant for struggling businesses to get loans through conventional banks, to help them start or grow their business.
Before meeting with business owners Wednesday, Bank of Maine Vice President for Commercial Lending Kim Vieira said the bank "absolutely" has money to lend.
"I'm looking forward to hearing their stories," she said. "I think, in this climate, people are more creative, thinking outside of the box. It all starts somewhere."
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