Gorham Savings Bank’s new program helps early-stage businesses move forward

15 small businesses including North Spore Mushroom Company, Two Fat Cats Bakery and Tito Masonry & Construction recently participated in a new five-part workshop series created to help Southern Maine entrepreneurs better understand their businesses’ financials. The program, called Forward with Funding, was created by Gorham Savings Bank along with seasoned business coaches Michelle Neujahr and Gerry Brown, who also led the workshops.

The program helps entrepreneurs, who may have limited experience on the financial side of running their business, demystify the business loan process. Additionally, the program shows owners how to confidently present their business plans, financial projections and personal financial information. In five, 2.5-hour hands-on evening workshop sessions, participants learned all this and much more.

“Without the benefit of an in-house financial manager, many banking and finance questions can go unanswered at small businesses,” said Gorham Savings Bank President, Steve deCastro. “We created Forward with Funding as an environment for small business owners to get those questions answered, learn about financial planning and share experiences about the ups and downs of running a business. When business owners better understand how all these pieces fit together, the odds for success increase remarkably.”

Participants had the opportunity to talk about their plans and concerns in a no-pressure, educational context with members of Gorham Savings Bank’s lending team who attended various sessions. “All our burning banking and finance questions were answered,” said Stacy Begin, owner of Two Fat Cats.

“Knowing when to grow your business is, in many respects, as important as knowing how to grow your business” said Michelle Neujahr. “Forward with Funding covers these two ends of the spectrum and the important things in between. And it’s always gratifying to see that ah hah look on the face of an entrepreneur.”

While the content of the program was primarily financial, Eliah Thanhauser, co-founder of North Spore, also found it helpful on a higher strategic level. “The program helped me identify what I need to know about my business to plan for growth and to make strategic decisions,” he said. “Gorham Savings Bank very generously provided the learning environment needed to strategically plan for North Spore’s businesses growth. And having insights from bankers, financial professionals and business consultants was very valuable.”

Many entrepreneurs struggle to find time to work on their business and not just in their their business. Moravia “Tito” Drice of Tito Masonry & Construction thought his biggest takeaway was learning how much more he could get done with a relatively small time commitment. “Just spending a couple of hours a week on my numbers, business plan, HR and marketing [can] go a long way,” he said.  

Stacy Begin of Two Fat Cats also appreciated how Forward with Funding gave her the time and support to step back and work productively on her long-term business goals. “Finding the time, discipline and environment to really focus on the future of your business can seem almost impossible without concentrated support from outside the daily grind. Forward with Funding provided a supportive atmosphere, and perhaps most valuable of all, support from fellow participants. We became cheerleaders and sounding boards for each other,” she said.

Gorham Savings Bank plans to run the invitation-only program, which is free for participants, again this October and each fall thereafter.  For more information on how to qualify for the program, which has limited availability, contact Gorham Savings Bank at: forward@gorhamsavingsbank.com.