In the little seaside village of Camden Maine, where zoning issues create splits in the community and job creation is a challenge, some residents are taking economic change into their own hands. This is the setting for the rise of a group of environmentally conscious entrepreneurs who have turned to cyberspace for their business address in their quest to prosper in a small town while changing the world for the better. Natural Maine Mama and LooHoo Wool Dryer Balls are 2 examples of creative internet businesses that are based in Camden. The interesting thread in these two companies is that they are all environmentally conscious and are in the “green” market. Their mantra may convince shoppers from all over the world to buy from these small Camden Maine companies. “Buying choices are one of the most powerful means to change the world. If you buy from people and companies that share your beliefs you are a modern revolutionary – you will change the world.”
Loo Hoo, formerly Wooley Rounds, was launched in 2010, and Natural Maine Mama were both launched in 2013. All three companies have a focus on providing non-toxic green products to customers. What makes Camden ripe for this kind of internet green business? The beautiful natural outdoor landscape, a community of like-minded environmentally-conscious individuals, and, sadly, limited choices to make a living. The green industry is a natural fit for Camden. The town has a citizens group, Citizens for a Green Camden that spearheaded the town-wide safe lawns pledge. Hundreds of businesses and private residents have pledged not to use pesticides on their lawns. Town owned property, such as the Harbor Park and the Camden Amphitheatre have signed onto the pledge. The town has a full commitment to being green whenever it can, but lacks that same commitment to creating a friendly business environment. In the last 8 years, Camden has reduced and rezoned thousands of square commercial footage to residential usage. Without the space for any kind of sizeable campus – corporate, non-profit, educational or otherwise, the chance that any large or even medium sized job creator is likely to come any time soon is net to null. “That’s okay,” says Jesse Bifulco, of Perseid Corp. “the forces of the status quo are against sustainable, renewable and organic, and yet it’s catching on despite them. If the town was able to attract a huge corporate employer chances are it would not be the kind of place we would want to live anyway. It’s a shame they can’t think of ways to foster small entrepreneurs, but why should this town be any different than anywhere else?” Faced with the dilemma of having to choose between eating and paying their bills, and moving on to greener pastures, these local entrepreneurs are choosing both. Industrious residents are looking at their own brick and mortar and figuring out how to make it work to pay for the rising property taxes. These entrepreneurs are finding creative ways to work around the severe anti-business sentiment in Camden. Home occupations are allowed all over Camden and ironically might be the saving grace. There are limits on low impact uses on Camden properties but small internet businesses very rarely exceed there restrictions.
Camden could never, I mean never, duplicate the conditions that contributed to the rise of Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley arose from military, government and research money. Colleges, national laboratories, beautiful and predictable weather and views just added to the attractiveness of Silicon Valley. But Camden has something unique and all its own – it’s history, its unspoiled natural beauty and the unique inventive industrious people who choose to live here. Camden does have a potential to create a green valley. Beautiful views, educated population, internet connections and classic Maine DYI attitude may be the backbone of new green business of Camden. The employees of these 2 small green companies have the luxury of taking conference calls on top of Mt. Battie, kayaking out to Curtis Island for a “company retreat” and best of all at the end of the night, be able to sleep under the brilliant Maine sky knowing they are selling products that are good for their families and the world. In 2014, who knows, maybe they will say Camden, Where the Mountains Meet the Sea, Green and Clean Businesses Welcome.