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July 2, 2021

Rockland chocolate entrepreneur wins 'Greenlight Maine' Season 6

Craft chocolate edged out containment solutions and rocket science in Thursday's "Greenlight Maine" Season 6 finale as Bixby & Co. of Rockland was crowned the 2021 winner of the business-pitch television series.

Bixby & Co., an artisanal maker of chocolate products including gluten-free, organic vegan bars and other chocolate products, won the $25,000 grand prize in last night's show, which was aired on Maine Public Television. The company, founded by Kate McAleer in 2011, employs 20 people with seasonal increases.

On Friday, McAleer told Mainebiz she will use the money for manufacturing equipment to expand capacity at the company, whose name was that of her great-great grandparents. The company sells its products at major retailers, including Whole Foods, CVS and Shaw's Supermarkets, as well as several independent natural and specialty stores. It also has an e-commerce site.

The other Season 6 finalists are both based at Brunswick Landing: Starc Systems, a maker of temporary, reusable modular containment systems for use during construction and renovation; and bluShift Aerospace, a developer of rockets powered by environmentally friendly fuels to launch tiny satellites into space that recently landed its first commercial deal.

Both of those companies were also awarded prizes to invest in their companies, Starc getting $10,000 and bluShift Aerospace getting $5,000. The three finalists made it to the final round out of 26 contestants of a season that kicked off last November, with 13 episodes pitting two contestants against each other. 

Though normally a live show done on stage, all episodes were recorded remotely, on a platform created by the show's director, Kris Bridges.

"Greenlight Maine" emcee Julene Gervais told Mainebiz that the team behind the show thought it would be interesting after five seasons to do an "all-star" series bringing back past participants to see how they had grown.

"It worked out better than expected," she said. "Everyone showed how they needed to adjust their business strategy during the pandemic to evolve and grow. Our audience related to it in so many ways ... We are looking forward to Season 7 and getting back to the studio."

Separately after Thursday's show, McAleer told Mainebiz, "I am honored and so incredibly excited to win."

McAleer also offered her congratulations to Starc Systems and bluShift Aerospace, adding: "I would like to thank my amazing team at Bixby Chocolate and Greenlight for this incredible capital to help us grow our business and capacity to produce our confections."

Thomas College student Jake Warn, profiled in an upcoming print edition of Mainebiz, won $10,000 in the latest "Greenlight Maine Collegiate Challenge" for a website of snowmobile trails across the state. Prizes also went to the second- and third-place winners in that edition, for a total of $62,500 awarded in 2021.

Adding to her honors

For McAleer, the "Greenlight Maine" Series 6 win comes amid Bixby's plans to expand to Waterville. It's also the latest of several honors for McAleer, who won Gorham Savings Bank's LaunchPad contest in 2014. That same year, she was honored on the Mainebiz Next List for her contributions to the state's economy.

She is also a past winner of a $100,000 prize from the Tory Burch Foundation, a New York-based organization dedicated to empowering women entrepreneurs.

McAleer told Mainebiz in 2019 that she considered that experience a milestone for Bixby and its expansion into pouched products.

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