Fikiria, a Portland-based marketplace for emerging entrepreneurs, launched February 12 in the company of a gathering of supporters and well-wishers. Located within Catholic Charities’ Threads of Hope Thrift Store, 1041 Brighton Avenue, the marketplace offers 12 retail-based business spaces, with rents below commercial rates. Space at Fikiria includes free professional wrap-around support for new entrepreneurs who might lack the deep pockets generally necessary to create a successful start-up.
“We’re truly trying to remove as many barriers as we can for folks looking to start a new business. We hope to be the launching pad for the next great Maine brand!” said Tae Chong, social enterprise and workforce development manager for Catholic Charities Maine, the program that incubated Fikiria. Fikiria offers business counseling services, marketing, and customer service guidance, as well as retail display and point-of-sale systems, all at no cost to the business owner.
“This program is unique,” said Dean Lachance, chief operating officer of Catholic Charities Maine. “It was needed. Fikiria provides an affordable, easy way for small businesses to get off the ground. We offer on-site support for the business owners from Amanda Fisher, former manager of Neiman Marcus, in South Portland, as well as from Tae Chong. And Threads of Hope is fully staffed, seven days a week. So if a business owner is unable to be present, customers can still make purchases.”
Fikiria has two tenants in place: NanuSka Style, owned by Nana Batumike, and Chiffon Alterations, owned by Anaam Jabbir. NanuSka Style offers clothing designed by Ms. Batumike and sewn from African fabric, along with cosmetics, jewelry, backpacks (also made with African fabric), and hair-braiding. Ms. Batumike says that the clothing she designs is sewn by seamstresses in Africa at the moment, but she hopes to collaborate in the future with fellow entrepreneur and master seamstress, Anaam Jabbir. Ms. Jabbir, owner of Chiffon Alterations, and head foreperson at American Roots, a large textile manufacturing company based in Portland, offers common repairs like sewing on a button or hemming a pair of pants, as well as complex repairs, such as altering the body of a jacket or shortening the sleeves of a dress shirt.
“We want to encourage anyone, and particularly seniors, young entrepreneurs, refugees, and immigrants to apply for space and join us in highlighting the true creative talents Maine has to offer,” said Stephen Letourneau, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities Maine.
The opening of Fikiria offered something for everyone to enjoy. Bondeko, a Portland-based band, provided spirited world music with Matt Baker (mandolin) joining band regulars Orson Horchler (guitar) and Ylli Brekofca (accordion). All the musicians in Bondeko are immigrants, and according to their Facebook page, they are “devoted to creating community by bonding with people of radically different cultures through music.” Coffee Me Up provided coffee and byerk, a flaky pie crust with fillings including meat, spinach, and cheese; Maiz offered empanadas with meat and vegetarian filling; Ameera Bread prepared tandoor flatbread, humus, sambosas, and dolmas.
For more information about Fikiria, see www.FikiriaMaine.org and contact Tae Chong, [email protected].