GSB's Program Helps Early-Stage Businesses Gain Financial Confidence

Regional businesses partake in third session of community bank’s Forward with Funding program

Thirteen small businesses including KinoTek, Fyood Kitchen, OpBox, Hemphill’s Horse, Seed and Saddlery, and GTFO Escape Room recently participated in a two-day, hands-on workshop created to help 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.

Offered at no cost, the program teaches entrepreneurs how to confidently present their business plans, financial projections and personal financial information, better positioning them to secure business funding. Over an immersive two days and a number of workshop sessions, participants learned all this and much more.

“One of our objectives as a community bank is to cultivate entrepreneurship throughout the region,” said Steve deCastro, president and CEO of Gorham Savings Bank. “This program provides participating companies real value at no cost by preparing them to reach the next level of their business’ evolution. If the bank can play a small role in helping entrepreneurs succeed, the program’s a worthwhile investment for GSB.”

Participants had the opportunity to talk about their plans and concerns in a collegial, educational context with members of Gorham Savings Bank’s business lending team who attended various sessions. “So much has changed from my original business plan” said Maddie Purcell, owner of Fyood Kitchen. “It was refreshing to speak with experienced lenders about where we are going and how to get there.”

Richard Reynolds from GTFO Escape Room was keen on learning how to approach lenders with little-to-no company assets. “We have a unique concept and steady customer base; our challenge is to build a business plan around that. Hearing how other companies have been successful as well as insights from bankers and Michelle and Gerry was invaluable.”

“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.”

Emily Davis, who co-founded OpBox with her brother and business partner Ben Davis said, “Forward with Funding gave us the confidence that we created a business plan with information a lender would want to see. That’s a major piece of the puzzle. We also took a step back and really thought about the reasons behind our operational policies.”

While the content of the program was primarily financial, Emily Mitchell, co-founder of Hemphills Horses, Feed, and Saddlery said, “We recently hit the 5-year mark as a company When Michelle and Gerry asked us to stop and think about our successes, it felt so good. We’ve had a few, a lot, even.”

Many entrepreneurs struggle to find time to work on their business and not just in their business. For Justin Hafner and Dan Lesko, KinoTek’s co-founders, 48 hours of headspace to focus intently on their business proved valuable.  “That’s rare for us,” said Hafner. “We focus so much on where we are now and loved spending time thinking about our short and long-term goals,” said Lesko.

“It’s always gratifying to see that ah hah look on the face of an entrepreneur,” said Neujahr.

Gorham Savings Bank plans to run the invitation-only program, which is free for participants, again next year. For more information on how to apply for the program, which has limited availability, visit