2016-04-01 / Front Page

City resident wins small biz accolade

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

South Portland resident Ellen Thayer, owner of Love Rocks Me, poses with cards featuring her stone design artwork at CIA Café in South Portland. The U.S. Small Business Administration recently recognized Thayer as Maine’s Home-Based Business of the Year.(Julie Bernier courtesy photo)

South Portland resident Ellen Thayer, owner of Love Rocks Me, poses with cards featuring her stone design artwork at CIA Café in South Portland. The U.S. Small Business Administration recently recognized Thayer as Maine’s Home-Based Business of the Year.

(Julie Bernier courtesy photo) SOUTH PORTLAND — A business based out of the home of a South Portland woman has won national recognition, based on a recent nod as the best of its kind in New England.

In a March 17 release, the U.S. Small Business Aministration announced it had named Love Rocks Me as the winner of its annual Home-Based Business of the Year Award for Maine and New England. According to the release, the award is given to a successful home occupation that has been in business for at least three years.

“Many great ideas come from small, home-based businesses, and Love Rocks Me is no exception,” said Marilyn Geroux, the SBA’s district director for Maine. “Ellen’s hard work, ingenuity and creativity make her a true role model for many of Maine’s entrepreneurs and I am delighted to recognize her success with this award.”

A former television meteorologist – Ellen Thayer worked on-air at WGME Channel 13 in Portland in the 1980s and for WBZ-TV in Boston until 2009. Thayer launched Love Rocks Me in 2011 from her Loveitt’s Field home, where she’s lived for about 15 years.

The company sells a line of note cards and prints, featuring more than 150 designs Thayer has created using hundreds of heart-shaped rocks she’s collected over the past 20 years.

“I have my Westie, Winston, to thank as most of my ‘love rocks’ were found during our many beach walks over the last decade,” Thayer said.

Love Rocks Me cards and prints are available locally at the CIA Café in Knightville, with distribution having spread to nearly 200 locations in 16 states. Thayer also sells the items through an online Etsy shop.


Two examples of the prints made by Ellen Theyer for her company Love Rocks Me, on page 1 and here, using photographs she takes of designs using heartshaped rocks shes' found over the past two decades while walking area beaches with her dog. (Courtesy images) Two examples of the prints made by Ellen Theyer for her company Love Rocks Me, on page 1 and here, using photographs she takes of designs using heartshaped rocks shes' found over the past two decades while walking area beaches with her dog. (Courtesy images) “I’ve always been creative and since 2005 had exhibited my oil paintings, driftwood sculptures, shell art and photographs of the state of Maine in several galleries and retail shows,” Thayer said. “The success of my Maine ‘Love Rocks’ photograph inspired more designs in the series, which I shoot outdoors at my home.”

In 2011, Thayer took two free courses offered by New Ventures Maine in South Portland, including business basics and training.

“These classes were instrumental in helping me to develop a niche as an artist and to demystify all aspects of growing a business,” Thayer said. “The networking and mentoring that resulted provided more opportunities to learn business fundamentals and to test market design ideas through the Small Business Development Center.”

Thayer polished her business plan by participating in Top Gun Prep class offered by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development, the SBA’s Scale Up program, and the Women Standing Together organization.

“The greatest challenge has been finding enough hours in the day to run all aspects of the business while still being able to innovate,” she said. “I’ve learned to get outside assistance in some areas such as bookkeeping that saves me time in the long run.

“But it is extremely gratifying to create a business from the ground up, especially from a beach combing passion I’ve had for most of my life,” Thayer said. “And while the learning curve and workload has been challenging at times, Maine has so many free resources available to assist entrepreneurs every step of the way.

“Winning the SBA award is a great honor, but I wouldn’t be where I am without the support and guidance from New Ventures Maine, the many retailers who have carried my line and encouraged my creativity, and my dog who has led me to many of the 500 heart rocks I’ve collected,” Thayer said.

Thayer was nominated for the SBA award by Gigi Guyton of New Ventures Maine.

“It is well deserved,” Guyton said. “Ellen has used Maine's small business development resources wisely, and is committed to excellence.”

Thayer will be presented with the award at the 2016 SBA Small Business Award Ceremony, held May 4 at the Augusta Civic Center.

Other SBA honorees will include:

 Masahiko Miyake, owner of Miyake of Portland – Minority Owned Small Business of the Year for Maine and New England,

 Getchell Brothers Inc. of Brewer – Family Owned Business of the Year for Maine and New England,

 James T. Gallagher, owner of Whoopie Pie Café in Bangor – Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Maine,

 Margo Walsh of MaineWorks of Portland – Maine Small Business Person of the Year,

 Thomas Myers of Anatomy Trains in Walpole – Maine Small Business Exporter of the Year,

 William Wedge of Will’s Shop ‘n Save in Dover-Foxcroft – Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year for Maine and New England,

 Michelle Ann Hanson, owner of Frederick’s Southside in Caribou – Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year for Maine,

 Jennifer Crosby of Endless Possibilties Child Care in Sangerville – Micro-Enterprise of the Year, and,

 Jayne Crosby Giles of Bangor-based MaineStream Finance – Financial Services Champion for Maine and New England.

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