Kenney Awards to celebrate business accomplishments of business community in Kennebec Valley


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AUGUSTA — When the members of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce gather for chamber’s annual banquet Friday, they’ll be celebrating their peers for their business accomplishments and impact on their community.

This year, the Kenney Awards return to the Augusta Civic Center with a live black tie event to honor awardees. As has been the tradition, three of the awards — Business Person of the Year, Large Business of the Year and Small Business of the Year — have been announced in advance. The winners of three other awards — President’s Circle, Community Service and Cynergy Professional of the Year — will be determined via live text voting at Friday’s event.

“You’re nominated by your peers in the community,” Katie Doherty, chamber president and chief executive officer, said. “You’re nominated, because people see your growth and how amazing your business is doing.”

That recognition is also for how much impact they have in the community, Doherty said.

The annual Kenney Awards banquet is returning to the Augusta Civic Center after three years. The 2021 celebration was held virtually and 2022 event was held in July at Mill Park on Augusta’s waterfront.

BUSINESS PERSON OF THE YEAR: INGRID STANCHFIELD

In the early 1990s, Ingrid Stanchfield was just looking for a summer job.

Ingrid Stanchfield

As a mother of two boys who was working for the school district in Gardiner, she was looking for a way to earn some extra money during the summer and give her sons something to do. She applied to work as the city’s recreation coordinator. Through that work, she found out what parents in the area needed and wanted for their children.

“The answers that came were: We need more child care. We need more things for the kids to do after school. We would like to see coordinated rec programs,” Stanchfield said earlier this month. “It was things like that that really started the ball rolling.”

Three decades later, as the CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley, Stanchfield, 60, has overseen the completion of a new $10 million facility that provides space for child care, programs for before and after school, and rooms for organizations and the community’s senior citizens to gather.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley got its start in 1999, spending its early years at the former train depot in Gardiner, then moving into the former Pray Street School. The new facility opened in time for the start of the 2022-23 school year. And now Stanchfield and her staff are starting to look for ways to expand their early child care programs.

“This is the power of people working together,” she said, noting that thousands of people have contributed their time, talent and money to get the organization to where it is today. “I could not have done any of this on my own.”

Stanchfield said her advice to others is to dream up something big, and then get to work accomplishing it every day.

“That’s how we got here. It’s been a long process of building programs, sustaining programs and creating the vision, not only for the building but the whole property,” she said. “Once you dare to dream, you have to perservere every day toward the goal. So many good people have helped us along the way to work out the details, the hurdles, to get us where we are today.”

LARGE BUSINESS OF THE YEAR: KENNEBEC SAVINGS BANK

Kennebec Savings Bank headquarters in Augusta is seen in this April 10, 2014 file photo. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

When Kennebec Savings Bank was founded more than 150 years ago, thanks to legislation signed into law by then-Gov. Joshua Chamberlain, its purpose was clearly laid out.

“We were put on the face of the Earth for the common person to save money and buy a home,” Andrew Silsby, Kennebec Savings president and chief executive officer said recently, “and we’re still doing it today.”

And it’s doing it with a growing customer base.

In the last five years, Silsby said, the bank has grown in size by 75% and is now the ninth-largest bank with headquarters in Maine. It has nearly 200 employees working at its headquarters and branch offices across the region and in southern Maine, where bank officials are working to open a branch in Portland.

The bank is a mutual organization, without individual stockholders. Without pressure to return value to individual shareholders, bank officials are able to invest the bank’s profits in projects that will make a difference to the community.

“The reality is if the community is healthy, the bank is going to be healthy,” Silsby said. “We are a reflection of the communities that we operate in, and that’s why we dedicate 10% of our income to go back to the communities we serve. In 2022, that was $1.2 million in community giving that went to 300 different organizations in 35 different communities.”

Silsby said the organization is proud and humbled by the award.

“Our team is just ecstatic to get the recognition,” Silsby said. “I see what they do, day in and day out.”

This is not the first time the bank has been recognized for its community contributions. In 2000, the bank was honored as Business of the Year.

SMALL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR: PICKLE’S POTIONS AND LOTIONS

Founder Kristin Mutchler at Pickle’s Potions & Lotions in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Kristin Mutchler, an admitted skincare products fan, was already making balms and salves for friends and family a decade ago when she developed a treatment for her newborn daughter’s eczema that didn’t rely on steroids.

That is when the business that would eventually become Pickle’s Potions & Lotions started to take root as she started to sign on for classes in botany and herbalism and earned advanced certification in organic cosmetic science.

Even though she now has a retail store in Winthrop, a virtual Etsy shop through which she has made tens of thousands of sales, a lab where she crafts her clean skincare products and a staff to help out, she was surprised at the announcement of the chamber’s award.

“It makes me feel like a valid business,” Mutchler said. “It’s hard to see anything when you are in it. I’m just trying to do everyday the taxes, the paper work and the product making. Everything feels very isolated and then something like this happens.”

Mutchler said for a business with no marketing department or advertising budget, the recognition and validation the award brings is a big deal. And from it, she said she hopes the exposure will draw more customers, both retail and wholesale, to her business.

Even as she’s learning and planning for her next phase of growth, she has advice for others who are building their businesses, Mutchler said.

“Don’t expect people to just come to you. You have to also reach out and be there and offer things,” she said. “You have to be there.”


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