MCED Connect

Issue: # 39 

March 2014 

5 Minutes with Joel Alex
Founder, Blue Ox Malthouse, LLC
Joel brings a passion for Maine, rural economic development, sustainability, and food systems to his work as President and Founder of Blue Ox Malthouse LLC
A Maine native, Joel comes from a diverse professional background in education, non-profits, and technology and an academic background in environmental policy and sustainable development.

1. Tell me about you first entrepreneurial experience as a kid. What ignited the spark in you to start Blue Ox Malthouse? 


My parents, Joe and Joanne Alex, started the Stillwater Montessori School before I was born and continue to run it today.  I never really thought about it, but I guess I came from an entrepreneurial background. What is obvious to me now is that I have always enjoyed building and creating things, especially when I am passionate about something. Reflecting back, one of the biggest entrepreneurial successes I had growing up was starting an international mini-camp for the Maine chapter of CISV, a global youth leadership organization. The weekend-long gathering is now in its 11th year and still going strong.


2. You recently hosted your own "crowd sourcing" day for Blue Ox Malthouse. Can you tell us a bit about that day and what outcomes were achieved?


As an entrepreneur, the list of projects you have to move forward is tremendous--more than any one person can accomplish alone--and with a long list of important items that kept falling off my to-do list, I recognized that I could use some support. Inspired by my experience participating in Portland Startup Weekend, where a team of people work to move an idea forward, I decided to run a similar day-long event focused on Blue Ox Malthouse to allow a space for the many family, friends, and professional connections that have offered their help over the past year.


In all, over 25 participants contributed over 140 man hours moving various projects forward. By the end of the day, Blue Ox Malthouse had a website, brand standards, a data management outline and strategy, social media accounts synced, and research briefs to name a few. Perhaps what is most exciting is that teams have continued to communicate and develop pieces of projects after the weekend. Among some of the more exciting results is that we have been able to take the data management outline and strategy to a developer and already working to develop it into a quality control system.


I also have to thank the 10 businesses that provided food, products, services, and coupons for the event. Especially I would call out Peloton Labs and the other Top Gun business that stepped up, Bixby & Co., Garbage to Garden, and Apiara, though the event couldn't have happened without the support of all the business and individuals who contributed to the day.


3.  What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be an entrepreneur?


Great question.


Perseverance. The entrepreneurial race is a hard one and if you give up you'll never finish. Receptiveness. The smartest thing an entrepreneur can do is recognize that no one person has all the knowledge and skills needed to bring an idea successfully to market. Building teams and asking for help are critical. Passion. You need to really care about your idea to make it happen. If you're not 100% behind your idea then you'll never find the drive to persevere.


I guess those are all qualities, not skills. But as I see it, skills can be learned or gotten, and  as long as the idea is a good one, the qualities of the entrepreneur will determine success. 

4. What is it about "starting from scratch" that has been the most challenging for you?


This is actually a hard question to answer because I walked into this with eyes wide open. I knew that this was going to be a lot of work., even more than I thought. Similarly, I knew there was a lot that I didn't know and quite a bit more that I would have to learn that wasn't even on my radar yet. In this way, most challenges, delays, or bumps, I can see as learning moments and opportunities to improve--that doesn't mean there easy, but entrepreneurship wasn't meant to be easy.


That said, finding the time to move all the pieces forward is definitely a big challenge, as I am sure it is for every entrepreneur. Starting from scratch, I guess the biggest challenge is that you have further to go to develop the idea and need more time and more energy to accomplish it all. 

5. How do you define success?


I would self-describe myself as a social entrepreneur. Yes the business has to be profitable to succeed--an unprofitable business helps no one--but at the end of the day, what drives me is making a positive impact on my community and on issues on which I am passionate. In my case, it happens to be building Maine's food economy and increasing the profitability of Maine's rural landscape.

Learn more about Blue Ox Malthouse HERE.  


On February 24, Top Gun graduate, Chimani's co-founder and CEO, Kerry Gallivan, was the featured interview on the Matt Zito's website To listen to the interview, check out this link:
Travel Startup Founder Series: Kerry Gallivan Founder Chimani
On March 3, Chimani, was a "main disk" presenter at the Web Innovators Groups (#WebInno) in Cambridge, Mass. The Web Innovators Group has a long history of highlighting emerging start-ups in the New England area and is run by venture capitalist David Beisel of NextView Ventures. For more details on the event, read Bostinno's preview article:
Get to Know the 3 Stellar Startups Presenting at WebInno

Client company, Dream Local Digital, has hired three new people to the team. Tim Schau, most recently the owner/operator of two European-style Market Cafes in Chicago, joins the company as a Marketing Strategist. Tom Tash, most recently the Recreation Director and Web Designer for the Town of Bridgton, joins the company as a Graphic Designer and Marketing Strategist. Valerie Robinson, most recently a Marketing Team Member at Whole Foods Market Tampa, joins the company as a Junior Marketing Strategist.


Dream Local Digital has added another media company to their Agency Partner Program . The partnership with Salt Lake City, Utah based, KSL Local Interactive will help build and strengthen KSL's relationships with local business owners interested in marketing with them, providing solutions ranging from website development, content strategy, and social media, to search engine optimization, reputation management, and email marketing. This partnership will help KSL broaden market share, drive new revenue through digital media, and provide clients an enhanced suite of online marketing products


Top Gun 2014 client company, Blue Ox Malthouse hosted their very own "Startup Weekend" in February. They gathered a group in Portland to move them forward. Outcomes included pieces like an official website - Check it out here!  


Top Gun 2014 client company, Finest Kind Tea, can now be found  

on the Stonewall Kitchen Website Store for purchase!   

Super good news and super good tea! 









Top Gun 2014 client company, Portland Pudgy will be in the Maine Boatbuilders Show, March 14th - 16th. Check them out! It's a wonderful, unique show that could only happen in Maine! Please stop by Portland Pudgy and visit.

Maine Boatbuilders Show, The Portland Company, 58 Fore Street, Portland, ME 04101 (207) 774-1067 


Did you know about MTI's Business Funding Workshops?


Looking to start or grow a small business or a big business in Maine?

MTI, Bangor Savings Bank, SCORE-Portland and the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development's (MCED's), Don Gooding, are joining forces to show you how!


Whether you have a gem of an idea, are launching a new startup or are managing a rapidly growing established business, this free workshop will cover key topics, programs, services and resources to help you succeed including:

  • Why having a business plan is important to small businesses and how to develop one
  • The variety of funding programs including grants, development loans, and equity capital offered by MTI
  • SBIR program support from MTI
  • What banks would like every business to know before applying for a business loan
  • The variety of business financing and support services available in Maine
  • Resources available to entrepreneurs and businesses to help them meet challenges and grow successful businesses

This is a workshop that every "wantrepreneur," entrepreneur, business leader, chief financial officer, community leader and business support organization should not miss!


There is no fee to attend, but registration is required.
3/12/14 - Business Funding Workshop - Portland

Other Business Funding Workshop Dates throughout the State:

3/13/14 - Business Funding Workshop - Bangor
 3/20/14 - Business Funding Workshop - Rockland
In This Issue
5 Minutes with Joel Alex
Did you know about MTI's Business Funding Workshops?
Upcoming Events
Important Dates from MTI
Upcoming Events:


March 11,2014

Fill out your  

application for  


 USM interns. 

They will be forms, snacks, and Joe Austin from USM and  

Renee Kelly from  

UMaine to answer  

questions and help fill

out your application.  

Bring a laptop so you  

can submit your  

application on the spot!

Contact :   




March 12, 2014

7:30-9:00 am  

Envision Maine  

with Shannon Kinney   

 FMI or to Register here




March 15
Deadline to apply for a subsidized

 Innovate for Maine Fellow/Intern.  




  Lunch and Learn  

March 20, 2014
Cannibalism, Risk and Entrepreneurship

with Carl Hoffman and Jean Hoffman  

12-2 pm

FREE Workshop

 FMI and to register here  




Table Talk  

March 20, 2014

Grant writing for Small Business

with Lee Cheever, MCED

2-4 pm 

 FMI or to Register here 




March 20, 2014

Death and Taxes

at Peloton Labs.  

6-9 pm 

 FMI or to Register here 




March 21, 2014

ACE Monthly Meeting


March 31
Deadline for

for best small business



April 1
Deadline to apply for Mass Challenge Accelerator Support & prizes for early stage scalable businesses.


Important Dates from MTI



 TechStart Grant Application Deadline
All applications due by 5pm   



 Seed Grant Application Deadline  

All applications due by 5pm    

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