This guest blogpost by Jennifer Hooper and MIchael Kennedy from the UMaine Foster Center for Student Innovation, is the second of a three-part series about the finalists in the Big Gig, a pitch contest for innovators and entrepreneurs. The Big Gig was created through a partnership among the towns of Orono and Old Town, Husson University, and the University of Maine and is sponsored by Blackstone Accelerates Growth. The grand finale will be held on April 8 at 5:30 at the University of Maine Foster Center for Student Innovation.
Who says they’ll never work after retirement? Not Bruce and Kathy Chamberlain, the owners and founders of Stone Fox Farm Creamery, located in Monroe, Maine.
Photo by Kevin Bennett
What started out as a small, seasonal “retirement project” has bloomed into a full-time, high demand operation. The business caters to hungry ice cream eaters across the state of Maine, from Monroe to Portland and beyond.
Ice cream was never part of Bruce and Kathy’s retirement plan. After Bruce retired from working for the State of Maine for over 30 years, the Chamberlains began to operate a small lunch cart at horse shows across the state of Maine. After adding ice cream to the menu, they quickly realized that customers were more interested in their cold, creamy delicacies than anything else.
“Once we added ice cream to the menu, that’s all anyone asked for,” Kathy Chamberlain recounted. “We couldn’t keep it in stock. That’s when we realized that switching over to all ice cream might be our best option.”
The Chamberlains make all their ice cream locally with ingredients that are primarily grown and cultivated in Maine. They buy the milk from their neighbors at Hilltop Farm, and use Maine grown fruit and maple syrup whenever possible. Their flavorings and extracts are just as “au natural” as their milk and cream. What’s the result? More than 33 ice cream flavors that are sold at Maine fairs, festivals, and over 40 retail stores.
The Chamberlains love selling ice cream from their mobile unit, affectionately dubbed the “Mobile Cone.” It has given them instant success with hungry customers at various farmers markets and local festivals in Augusta, Rockland, and Waterville,. Building on this momentum, the Chamberlains are presently planning an Indiegogo Campaign to raise funds for a second unit. Spreading the news about the campaign is what originally brought them to the Big Gig.
The couple pitched at the Big Gig event in February and earned a spot in the Big Gig finale in April, where they will compete against three other small businesses for a cash prize of $1,000. They are asking for support for their upcoming Indiegogo campaign, which is designed to raise funds for a second mobile unit.
To hear more about the Chamberlains, and other local entrepreneurs’ pitches, please come to the Big Gig finale; you can RSVP here. (And if you’re into ice cream, rumor has it there may be samples…)