Vibrant small businesses share tips, experiences

Ya gotta love it! That seems to be one of the main criteria for starting a small business and making it a success. It also was the sentiment of the folks reflecting on what it has taken them to build four vibrant businesses at the close of 2014.

With no background in retail or running a business, Nancy O’Brien opened Fiore, a shop specializing in artisan olive oils and balsamic vinegars, in downtown Bar Harbor in 2009. Now, six years later, the business is going great and O’Brien has five other stores in Maine.

She and her husband, Pat, were living and working in Connecticut when they happened to meet an importer of olive oils and vinegars.

“We tasted some of the products and were amazed by them,” Nancy said. “They talked about the concept of having people taste before they buy.”

The couple loved vacationing on Mount Desert Island and, in 2006, they bought a small cottage on the island.

“The idea of having a tasting room kept coming back to us, and we thought Bar Harbor would be an amazing place to do it,” Nancy said.

When she opened Fiore, she was the sole employee. Her husband left his job 18 months later and became her “marketing guru.”

Nancy said they’ve gotten great advice from their local banker and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

In 2013, the SBA named Fiore its Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year in Maine.

Nancy said a big reason for Fiore’s success is the product.

“It sells itself,” she said. “Our olive oils come from all over the world. Anywhere they are crushing olives and making olive oil, we’re bringing it in, as fresh as we can get it.

“All of our balsamics are from Modena, Italy, which is the center of the universe when it comes to balsamics.'

Nancy’s advice for anyone thinking about starting a business is “go with your gut, do your research and find the right people to help you.”

Written by Dick Broom. Published courtesy the Mound Desert Islander.