P.O. Box 163, Westbrook
Heather Chandler wasn’t looking to start a business – it was more about providing a resource that she truly believed in.
So in 2006, she started The SunriseGuide, a coupon book dedicated solely to Maine businesses, and filled with fresh bits of advice on energy efficiency and sustainable living.
Five years later, it includes hundreds of businesses in an expanded coverage area, and it recently launched a companion online directory. It’s become become the go-to guide for green living in Maine.
Q: What were your most important needs in getting started?
A: Initially, the assurance of start-up finances to know that I could support myself and business expenses. I made a detailed budget, and once I had determined the amount I would need to support the first four months or so, I set about the process of raising the funds. I also need a certain amount of business advising – this was the first time I’d ever started a business, let alone managed one – so I gobbled up every available resource. I met with counselors at the Maine Small Business Development Center and the Coastal Enterprises Maine Women’s Business Center. And then I applied and was accepted to join a business incubator program. This was a very crucial step as it gave me access to other entrepreneurs who were dealing with the same issues and were able to provide a great deal of support and assistance.
Q: What factors from your upbringing gave you the courage to venture out on your own?
A: I was raised mostly by a single mother, who taught me independence, confidence and resourcefulness. I believe that we can accomplish anything we set our minds to. And I’ve always believed that what we do and how we spend our hours every day matters. For me, my work has to have a deeper meaning and is not driven solely by a paycheck. I started my company not because I wanted to be a business owner, but because I believed so strongly that this product should exist and would be a great resource for Maine. One other thing that gave me courage and perseverance was the power of prayer and a positive attitude.
Q: What do you think are the advantages of being a female entrepreneur?
A: I think that women tend to be more collaborative by nature. We seek out support and help when we need it. I have found it easy to find mentors, most of whom have been experienced male entrepreneurs who were happy to share their knowledge and experience to help me grow my business. I also benefited from women’s business services, such as the CEI Women’s Business Center and the Women Standing Together program of the Maine Women’s Fund.
Q: What advice would you give an aspiring woman entrepreneur?
A: Believe in yourself, every day. Seek out help from other entrepreneurs and be sure to maintain those relationships. They are a gift. Develop an advisory board of mentors – a handful of folks that you meet with every other month or so – to bounce ideas off, and learn from. I’ve found that most people are flattered to be asked and happy to share their experience and knowledge to help you. Consider joining a business incubator. And develop a budget with all expected expenses and conservative revenue projections before you start spending money to ensure that what you are planning is profitable and sustainable.
Q: If you knew then what you know now, would you have done anything differently?
A: I might have found a way to hire an employee earlier. The first two years, I ran the business primarily with seasonal staff and independent contractors. When I added my first employee in my third year, things really started to grow.