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October 25, 2017

Bangor business a finalist in U.S. SBA ‘InnovateHER’ competition

Courtesy / SBA Maine District Office
Courtesy / SBA Maine District Office
Jamie Clark, owner of The Willie Wags in Bangor, fourth from left, is competing today as one of 10 national finalists in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2017 InnovateHER Challenge in Washington, D.C. The photo above was taken when her business was selected as the winner of the local competition in Maine. Pictured from left to right are: Amy Bassett, SBA Maine District Director; Jen Dobransky, New Ventures Maine; Haley Israelson, North Atlantic Capital; Jamie Clark, owner of The Willie Wags; Cole Palmer, CEI; Adam Nyhan, Opticliff Law; Sarah Guerette, Women’s Business Center; and Kate Curran, Women’s Business Center.

Jamie Clark, owner of The Willie Wags, a Bangor store that collaborates with other women-owned businesses, is competing against nine other national finalists today in the U.S. Small Business Administration's 2017 InnovateHER Challenge.

Founded in January 2016, The Willie Wags features products made by woman-owned businesses at its retail store in downtown Bangor as well as online.

The national live-pitch competition in Washington, D.C., will give Clark and the other finalists an opportunity to conduct a marketing pitch before a team of judges as they compete for one of the top three awards totaling $70,000 in prize money provided by the Sara Blakely Foundation. A luncheon will follow the pitch competition, where the winners will be announced.

The 10 finalists were selected through a rigorous nationwide competition held by host organizations, including universities, accelerators and SBA Resource Partners that ran local area competitions through June 2017. An executive committee of SBA officials then evaluated more than 120 semi-finalist nominations and chose the 1finalists whose products and services best meet the competition criteria and present the greatest potential for success in the national competition.

"To have a small business from Bangor, Maine recognized on the national level is truly a credit to the hard work of Ms. Clark," said Amy Bassett, SBA's Maine district director. "What sets The Willie Wags apart is its guiding principle of working collaboratively with other women owned businesses, providing an example for all small business owners across the country."

Sarah Guerette, director of the Women's Business Center at CEI, which nominated Clark as the local competition winner, said The Willie Wags stood out among a competitive field of InnovateHER submissions because of its "business model of supporting and promoting other women owned businesses."

"By donating a portion of proceeds from each box to help fund growth opportunities for female small business owners, The Willie Wags amplifies its impact and fulfills a critical tenant of the InnovateHER competition by empowering women and their families," Guerrette said.

Clark said she was honored to be tapped to compete in the national round of the live-pitch challenge, saying the national exposure offers an opportunity to expand not only her company's network and customer base but also that of the women-owned businesses she partners with.

"We are honored to be in such amazing and talented company in the Top 10 and look forward to pitching for grant money that could truly change the face of our business going forward," she said.

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