Juiced about entrepreneurs

I’m in beautiful Camden today, covering Juice 3.0 – a conference that’s dedicated to promoting the benefits of all juices, from orange to apple, tomato to grape.

Ok – it’s really all about Maine’s creative economy, and the theme this year (the 3rd year of the conference) is “risk.”

What’s been fun has been running into folks who are doing really cool things in Maine – or who want to. Maine has so many amazing entrepreneurs, folks no one has every heard of, often times, who are making a go of it despite the bad economy.

Of course, as Jeanne Hulit of the Small Business Administration noted today, recessions are often THE time to take a risk and launch your biz – oftentimes, folks are out of work, or are under-employed, so they turn to entrepreneurship.

One of those folks who I’ve never heard of, but I’m looking forward to writing about, is Ben Sawyer of Digitalmill in Portland. He’s deeply involved in “serious gaming.” That’s basically applying a video game model to some seriously serious stuff – from helping cancer patients visualize their fight against the bad cells to teaching college administrators how to run a campus.

Ben and I will be talking more, soon. Who knows, maybe I can claim any extra work on the Wii at home as “background” for a story….

Jesica Garrou is an Portland entrepreneur who’s pitching her idea in the $150k business pitch contest. She’s got a software solution that integrates the front-end business of tour companies with the back-end of the business. The product’s called “T-Man,” the company is Pizzazz Technologies.

Amy Ireland is also of Portland, and she’s developed a line of snack foods that are (gasp!) good for you – fruit, whey and some chocolate. I popped one – they’re yum. She’s also pitching her company, which is called neu. (There’s supposed to be an umlaut over the ‘u,’ like in Hagar the Horrible’s name.

And I also met a woman who’s looking to open a business here. I don’t want to give away too many details – but she’s coming from OUT OF STATE to explore opening a biz here, it has to do with tomatoes, and NASA.

Again – that’s a story I’ll be pursuing.

What’s cool, too, is many of these entrepreneurs are running into folks here who can help them out, or who are already working with them. Bill Card from the SBA was networking with one of them, Joe Migliacco from the Maine Technology Institute was chatting up another.

Laurie Lachance from the Maine Development Foundation actually introduced me to Ben Sawyer, and after we chatted, the two were deep in discussions.

Lachance is fond of saying that Maine’s a perfect state for this kind of thing – it’s small enough that people can meet people, entrepreneurs can easily get in front of people who can help them out.

Juice 3.0 is the latest example of that.