New TV Series to Celebrate Diversity in Maine Business

April 21, 2021
Bangor, ME: They come from places as far away as Ghana, Iraq, Rwanda, Kenya, India, Bolivia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are small business owners toiling away, doing what is necessary to make it in Maine, while giving back to a community that has welcomed them without hesitation. These compelling stories are about to be told in a new TV series beginning later this month.

Greenlight Maine and Bangor Savings Bank are proud to bring to the region “Elevating Voices,” a new series that celebrates minority-owned and racially diverse businesses, and their importance to Maine’s economy. Over the course of six weeks beginning April 29th, a dozen business owners will be featured in heartwarming, inspiring and provocative stories that shine a light on the value of diversity and its positive impact on our communities, culture, and economy.

Hosted by Greenlight Maine’s Julene Gervais and Alyne Cistone, the show will elevate the distinctiveness and strength of our friends, our neighbors and our job creators – the very people who help make Maine the special place that it is.

“Over the last year, we’ve been tested like never before,” said Governor Janet Mills. “But Mainers have risen to the challenge with the resolve and resilience that is at the heart of our character. That character and resilience is also embodied in the 12 small business owners you will learn about in the ‘Elevating Voices’ series. I thank these business owners for their inspired entrepreneurship and leadership; your contributions to our state make Maine, and the nation, a better place.”

“Elevating Voices” will feature the following businesses:
ADELE MANSENGO DESIGNS; ANTOINE'S TAILOR SHOP AND FORMAL WEAR, PortlandAdele Ngoy attended fashion school and worked as a professor in the Democratic Republic of Congo prior to coming to Maine as a refugee and single mother. She re-established herself as a designer, founding Adele Masengo Designs and purchasing Antoine’s Tailor Shop and Formal Wear. Ngoy founded Women United Around the World in 2011, which promotes the leadership development of female immigrants.

AKAKPO DESIGN GROUP, Westbrook Ebenezer Akakpo’s jewelry is inspired after native symbols in Ghana of abundance, affluence, bravery, endurance, friendship, hope, loyalty, strength, supremacy of God, and unity. Prior to moving to Maine, he trained as a fine jeweler in Ghana and Italy.

C. LOVE COOKIE PROJECT, Portland – Inspired by her passion for the immigrant and refugee community, and her love for pastry, culture, travel, and hearing peoples’ stories, Katherine Slevin founded C. Love Cookie Project, a business that employs immigrants and donates a portion of sales to support the immigrant community of Portland.

CROSS CULTURAL COMMUNITY SERVICES, PortlandCross Cultural Consulting Group, run by Abeir Ibrahim, Regina Phillips, Deqa Dhalac, provides cross cultural, multicultural training and coaching to organizations that want to become more knowledgeable about Maine’s growing refugee and immigrant community and people of color.

DECONTIE & BROWN, BangorDecontie & Brown is a luxury jewelry and fashion studio owned by Jason Brown and Donna Decontie-Brown. This husband-and-wife team draws inspiration from their Penobscot tribal heritage and their experience in the luxury jewelry industry to create beautiful trendsetting designs with a Native American influence.

DEKO’S KUTZ BARBER SHOP, OrlandDeko Kutz is a former mill worker in Bucksport who reinvented himself after the mill shutdown. He started a successful barber shop where he also gives free haircuts to those in need. 

DOUGLAS, MCDANIEL & CAMPO LLC, PA, WestbrookThomas Douglas is an experienced litigator who has successfully argued cases in state and federal courts throughout Maine, including the Maine Supreme Court. Thomas started his career at a large firm in Boston and moved to Maine where he is a Partner at Douglas, McDaniel & Campo LLC, PA.

EMPANADA CLUB, Portland Adrian Espinoza Garcia moved from Bolivia to Maine with his wife and quickly discovered that empanadas were practically impossible to find in Maine. He reaches customers directly through sales at farmer’s markets, breweries and events, building up a following for his food.

INDIGO ARTS ALLIANCE, PortlandIndigo Arts Alliance, founded by Marcia and Daniel Minter, embodies a Black-led, multiracial approach to the rich intersections of citizenship, community-building, and creativity. IAA’s mission is to build global connections by bringing together Black and Brown artists from diverse backgrounds to engage in their creative process.

LITTLE JUBBA, Wales – Last year, the Somali Bantu Community Association (SBCA) and Agrarian Trust formed the Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons (AC), a transformative new model for community-centered land tenure. The long-standing dream for secure farmland became a reality for this group of immigrant farmers in May 2020 when they found their perfect farm, 104 acres in Wales.

MARIN SKINCARE, PortlandAmber Boutiette and Patrick Breeding founded Marin Skincare after they formulated a product to address Boutiette’s eczema. Now they are on a mission to bring the relief she found to as many people as possible, by building a brand of intentionally designed skincare products for people with sensitive skin.

MUMBAI TO MAINE, BoothbayCherie Scott, originally from Mumbai, India, is a content creator who utilizes her platform to share everything from cultural appreciation, the stories of Maine, and personal anecdotes. Cherie puts a big focus on dishes from India and loves to share her culture with others.

“Each individual and company featured in this series has played a big role in building Maine’s culture, economy and strong sense of community – and they deserve to be recognized and celebrated,” said Greenlight Maine Host and Producer Julene Gervais. “It’s an honor to be able to share their journeys with this important celebration of diversity in Maine businesses.”

The series is underwritten by Bangor Savings Bank and will air on Maine Public Television beginning Thursday, April 29 and airing every Thursday night through June 3. Along with the visibility, each featured business owner is receiving a $5,000 gift from Bangor Savings Bank.

“At Bangor Savings Bank, we are deeply committed to heightening and expanding our DEI promise by finding innovative ways to support Maine communities and our small businesses throughout the pandemic and beyond,” said Isla Dickerson, Executive Producer and Co-Creator of Elevating Voices, and SVP and Director of Marketing & Community Relations at Bangor Savings Bank. “‘Elevating Voices’ is the result of the longstanding racial injustices in our country that were intensified by the events over the past year, the pandemic, the fact that our small businesses – the lifeblood of our economy and way of life in Maine – were struggling to survive, and the clear need to elevate and support minority-owned businesses and their tremendous contributions to the state. We are proud to have worked with Greenlight Maine to create and bring this tremendous series to life.”

How to Watch
Viewers can tune in at 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays to one of the following Maine Public Television stations: WCBB 10 Augusta, WMEB-TV 12 Orono, WMED-TV 10 Calais, WMEM-TV 10 Presque Isle and WMEA-TV 45 Biddeford. The series will be rebroadcasted on Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
Visit the ‘Elevating Voices’ Facebook or Instagram, or to learn more about the series and this year’s incredible honorees.