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June 18, 2018

Great visibility on tap with new iBec location in Portland

Courtesy / iBec Creative
Courtesy / iBec Creative
iBec founder and president Becky McKinnell is seen here, with senior digital marketing strategist Emily Drappi in the background, at the company's current quarters on Fore Street. McKinnell reconfigured that as a flex-space feel, and will expand on the idea at 177 High St. in Portland, which it purchased from Maine Medical Center for $498,500 on May 4.

PORTLAND — The move to 177 High St. will position iBec Creative, a web design and development agency, in a location the company's leader says will provide greater visibility than its current location on the city's East End.

Becky McKinnell, iBec's founder and president, purchased Unit No. 7 from Maine Medical Center for $498,500. The property was originally listed at $535,000.

The deal, brokered by Catie-An Seavey of CBRE|The Boulos Co. and Craig Church of Magnusson Balfour, closed May 4. For now, iBec is at 100 Fore St., near Hamilton Marine.

At its new site, it will occupy a street-level, 4,141-square-foot office/retail condominium unit is in the Gateway Complex, which is on the ground floor of a 654-space parking garage. It's located in Portland's Arts District, adjacent to the Westin Hotel and within walking distance of the Portland Museum of Art, the Cumberland Club, and various retail, restaurant and office businesses.

The interior layout includes large open office area, several private offices, conference room, work room and kitchenette. The purchase includes two dedicated parking spaces in the garage, plus public use of the garage.

McKinnell, who founded iBec 12 years ago, said she's been contemplating a move for the past year-and-a-half. She looked at about a dozen spots, all in Portland.

"It was about finding the right space at the right price, where I knew we could have an awesome office space for iBec," she said.

It was important to her to stay on the peninsula.

"I personally like working downtown and I think our employees do, too," she said. "It's a good quality of life."

Changing workspace, changing business

Courtesy / CBRE | The Boulos Co.
Courtesy / CBRE | The Boulos Co.
Unit No. 7 at 177 High St. in Portland offers greater visibility for iBec Creative.

In the past year, she said, iBec has moved from the conventional concept of stationary desks to more of a fluid office space.

"Everyone has laptops and we have a lot of collaborative workspaces," she said of the Fore Street location. "We've invested in new furniture so that there are comfy areas to work with your laptop, or you can go into smaller offices to have meetings or videoconferences with clients. It gives people the opportunity to change up who they're sitting next to and work with people on the same projects. If you want to, you can go work by a window, work in a quiet space, or just find the best place you're in the mood for."

The High Street location is not much larger than the Fore Street space — about 100 square feet more.

"But what we love is that the space is more optimized, with much better flow and a really big open office area, which we'll use for a lot of that nontraditional office seating," she said. "Walking into our office, I want clients to feel like they're going into a creative space, but there are also lots of nooks to work." Existing divisions of space, she said, will be retained as meeting areas and video conferences.

Hardypond Construction will handle renovations. McKinnell has done much of the interior design herself, in collaboration with Lindsay Joy Stone, a lighting and display artist in Portland, and her husband, Forrest Stone, who owns the Portland woodworking and metal fabrication company Forjstone Studio.

"It's been fun to be creative and come up with unique ideas for the space," she said.

McKinnell expects to be able to make the move in late summer or early fall.

With 14 employees, iBec works with companies that need help with their websites and online marketing strategies.

Clients include LeRoux Kitchen, Gorham Savings Bank and Maine Spirits.

"Often we work with retailers and manufacturers who are looking to grow their sales online," McKinnell said.

While clients are largely in southern Maine, with much of the business generated by word of mouth, McKinnell said she's aiming to expand the company's reach. "We know what we're good at and it's the right time to let more people know about us," she said.

To that end, she's been focusing new business development on the ecommerce space and recently shifted her business model from doing hourly and budgeted work to an "iBec membership" model: Clients pay a flat monthly fee for membership, and with that they have a dedicated team of a designer, developer and digital marketer that gets to know the business, with the goal of producing measurable results each month.

She also hired a business development coordinator who specializes in e-commerce. And she plans to expand iBec's Northeast Ecommerce Summit, an exclusive live event founded last September in Portland for retail/e-commerce CEOs and marketing directors.

"We've had such positive feedback that we'll be expanding it to more cities in the Northeast," she said, with the first new venue likely to be this fall in New Hampshire.

New hires will take place as the client base grows, she said, adding that the new space, with its flexible space and a flex time policy, will accommodate workforce growth.

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