Local web design and development firm iBec Creative and its founder Becky Stockbridge were named one of BusinessWeek's best young entrepreneurs.
Stockbridge joins a list that includes clothing makers, online advertising buyers and a molecular imaging company among others, all under the age of 25. Now that list will be shrunk down to finalists for Best Young Entrepreneurs as voted on by people on the Internets.
"The real exciting part will be when I go to Borders and buy a printed copy," Stockbridge said on Monday.
Stockbridge's path started at the University of Southern Maine, where she entered a business plan competition at the Maine Center for Enterprise Development. She originally set out to create a business that provides web design and development for people in medical fields. In 2006 she started out with a grant from the Libra Future Funds as well as work space from the MCED program. Stockbridge said because of that help "being a young entrepreneur in Portland is a unique opportunity."
Sandra Stone, project manager at the MCED program, said Stockbridge is one of the many success stories coming out of the business incubator program. When Stockbridge was getting started, she helped the MCED with redesigning its logo and website, which led to interest in her work, Stone said.
Stone said Stockbridge embodies the mindset any small business owner needs, a tolerance for risk and an outlook "not that (something) can't be done, but that there isn't a solution yet," Stone said.
What makes Stockbridge and the other young entrepreneurs stand out is not just swimming against the tide in a down economy, but also cold hard facts. According to BusinessWeek's story most entrepreneur action isn't taking place in your 20s:
"Over the past decade or so, the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity belongs to the 55-64 age group. The 20-34 age bracket, by contrast, had the lowest rate. That's according to a recent report by Dane Stangler, a senior analyst with the Kauffman Foundation, based on data collected from 1996 to 2007."
Stockbridge said the economy is just one reason young people are looking at going into business for themselves. But faced with the decision of working for someone else or taking a chance on yourself, "it makes a lot of sense sometimes if you have the courage, plan and passion to start your own business," she said.
iBec is located in Portland and now has a staff of five people and, according to BusinessWeek, $225,000 in revenue in 2008.
"We didn't have millions of dollars in capital starting up but still were able to create a business around three years that is employing people and helping the economy," she said.
Stockbridge said she's hopeful being recognized by BusinessWeek will help iBec grow further. One of the hurdles Stockbridge has faced has been potential clients unsure about doing business because of her age. She said iBec's growing list of clients and credible work should outweigh the fact she's 25.
That doesn't mean she's doesn't have days when she's still surprised she's running her own successful business.
"There were so many baby steps I kept taking and before I knew it I had this company I was running," she said.