To spread the word about her newly-formed business, Kathe Mickunas of Ione Floral Design knew her “lush and exuberant” floral arrangements needed to be captured in photos.

After completing her winning “pitch” to a panel of judges representing the Midcoast economic development and business community, she recently received a $400 Marketing Mini-Grant from New Ventures Maine.

Fresh flowers purchased with the award helped promote her full-service wedding and event floral studio in a community-wide collaborative photoshoot.

For the past six years, New Ventures Maine has provided marketing mini-grants, supported in part by Norway Savings Bank, to over 130 small business owners around Maine to assist micro-businesses of five or fewer full-time employees and annual sales of $250,000 or less with marketing funds.

According to the organization’s Midcoast Microenterprise Specialist Jenn Dobransky, Mickunas was chosen from among five entrepreneurs who “pitched” for the 2017 award.

Incorporating a background in art, flower farming, and garden and floral design, Mickunas describes her designs as “painterly romantic garden style,” with photos essential to her web design and marketing materials.

This past summer, she and her daughter undertook their first photographic collaboration – an “inspiration photo shoot” on coastal Maine. She recalls, “What happened that day was pure magic, one of those atmospheric foggy moments caught on film” where Christophe Zydek of Artsinfotos took a gorgeous photo of model Gabriella Raianne, later chosen for the January 2018 issue of Real Maine Weddings.

Mickunas was gathering ideas for a second photo collaboration when she learned about the pitch contest/mini-grant program. She assembled a proposal that would help offset the cost of the collaboration and was delighted to learn she was selected as sole winner of Midcoast New Ventures Maine’s mini-grant/pitch.

Many local wedding vendors joined Ione Floral Design and the “timeless” themed photoshoot soon took on a life of its own.

Leigh Doran and Nadra Edgerley of Nadra Photography were instrumental as photographers. The tablescape, set at Henry & Marty Restaurant, featured a cake by Wildflours Gluten Free Bakery, accessories from Hatch on Maine, vintage dishes from Kate Hodgkins’ collection and florals and styling by Ione Floral Designs.

Andrea’s and His & Hers Bridal provided wedding attire for models, Felipe Gunter and Izzi Mickunas, with Kim Doll styling their hair. The faux wedding couple’s second shoot location of the day was staged with help from Eileen Horner at The Brunswick Inn.

“I was amazed by the generosity and pure devotion each collaborator brought to it. Stunning photos happened because of all these people,” Mickunas said. She estimates, by coming together, each business was able to share what would have individually cost thousands of dollars. Results were recently posted at ionefloraldesign.com.

Mickunas stresses the need for entrepreneurs to continue to grow professionally. “If I’ve learned anything, it’s the importance of doing something that makes me reach and leave my comfort zone … and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

She credits the staff at New Ventures Maine with helping her develop her business idea and providing the support that allowed her to “focus my goals.”

For more information on the New Ventures Maine Marketing Mini-Grant pitch and business assistance programs, contact Jenn Dobransky at [email protected], 386-1664 or newventuresmaine.org.

New Ventures Maine helps Maine people find success in their jobs, businesses and communities through tuition-free classes and workshops, onsite and online, and one-on-one coaching in four program areas: Build a Career, Start a Business, Manage your Money, Become a Leader. New Ventures Maine is administered by the University of Maine at Augusta and operates out of 10 offices statewide.

For more information and to find classes around the state, visit www.newventuresmaine.org or call 386-1664 (Brunswick), 593-7942 (Rockland), or 1-800-442-2092 (statewide). New Ventures Maine’s Midcoast Region covers Brunswick to Belfast, and travel assistance may be available to help you attend trainings and access services.