Two years ago I headed to Augusta, Maine to testify before the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee on the importance of continued funding for the fantastic programs offered by Women, Work and Community. This year I’m busy baking (!) and am sending this letter to the Committee in my absence. I hope WWC receives the funding they need!
March 20, 2013
Representative Kathleen Chase and Members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee:
My name is Liz Mott, and I own Sunnyfield Farm and Baking Company in Wells. I am a 2010 graduate of the New Ventures Entrepreneurship Training program through the Maine Centers for Women, Work and Community (WWC). I understand you are facing serious budgetary challenges yet again and want to lend a personal perspective to the importance of the continued funding of these programs.
On Mother’s Day 2009, at the age of 38, I found myself a widow with 3 small children (ages 5, 6, and 11). Forced to move out of our home in Paris, ME, we moved in with my parents on their unused farm in Wells, ME.
I had been a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom for the previous 11 years. With no career to “fall back on”, I decided to look into starting my own business. The kids started in public school, and I started re-creating my life.
I had an idea of organically farming the land, so in May 2010 I headed out into the field with a rototiller and hand tools from my parent’s shed and started planting seeds. Soon after, I took a Basics of Starting a Business course through WWC, which made me realize I had a viable business idea, so I applied for and was accepted into the New Ventures program.
Led by Gigi Guyton, Microenterprise Coordinator, this invaluable class was a weekly, in-depth immersion into the world of micro-business. Surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs from all walks of life, all with diverse business ideas, we shared the common bond of wanting to be successful business owners.
Weekly presentations by attorneys, insurance agents, finance and marketing experts, and the like helped us to understand the intricacies of starting our own business. By the end of the class, we each had a completed business plan and a network of supportive classmates, many of whom continue to be in contact with one another.
By late summer, I was proud to say that I was the owner of Sunnyfield Farm & Baking Company. I had successfully established a large organic garden where I grew vegetables, herbs and flowers. I sold to individuals, at Farmer Markets in Wells and Kennebunk and a local chef. I also got the farm kitchen certified by the state and began to produce and sell high-quality baked goods at the markets and to a local cafe.
Before long it was my biscotti that became the focus of my business and I started selling to Coffee by Design’s 3 locations in Portland and at the LLBean flagship store in Freeport, Stonewall Kitchen Cafe in York, Scarborough Grounds, The Gelato Fiasco, Kitchen Chicks Cafe and others.
A website designed by a friend gave me a way to sell my goods online, and I started taking orders from around the country. I was just accepted at the Kennebunk Farmers Market as their newest vendor where I will sell my biscotti and marshmallows there as well as at market in Wells.
My next goal is to secure a commercial kitchen to use full time. I have 2 major distributors interested in my biscotti but I must be able to meet their demand. Increased sales will allow me to provide for my children’s needs, find us our own home, and provide jobs for others in the community.
I understand that Women, Work and Community is facing proposed cuts in each of the next two years in the biennial budget under the Maine Department of Labor that will seriously affect their ability to deliver services statewide. I urge you to find ways to maintain the current level of support or, if possible, expansion of their funding, so that programs of Women, Work and Community can continue and women like me can continue on the path to a secure financial future.
Owner, Sunnyfield Farm & Baking Co.