Three 17-year-old friends in Maine wanted to start a business to help the community during the pandemic so they did what any teenagers would do, they heeded advice from a musician.
Of course, at 17, you wouldn’t expect that musician to be Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith.
“I read an interview in which he had detailed how the band would brainstorm,” said Aidan Stark-Chessa. “They brought all the ideas they had, good or bad, to see what they liked. So that’s what we decided we would do.”
After a couple weeks of nightly brainstorming sessions, Procure Maine was born, a concierge service run by three rising seniors from the Portland area.
“We then started calling people we knew who are active in the local economy and we started putting our business together,” said Stark-Chessa. “We designed a website, a flier, and a phone pitch. In total it took us approximately two weeks between having the idea and getting our first customer.”
Procure Maine can certainly bring dinner and grab groceries, but also, if you’re visiting from out-of-state and forget a necessity for your trip, the boys encourage folks to consider them your personal shopper. Since tourists must either provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 72 hours or self-quarantine for 14 days when arriving in Maine, the friends figure they’ll help flatten the curve, so-to-speak, by running errands for vacationers and locals alike.
The goods are promised within 24 hours, but delivery is quite often same-day. Because of their age, the young entrepreneurs cannot purchase or deliver alcohol, but the friends anticipated this and used their business savvy to hire an independent contract who is older than 21. The company also adds a 30 percent gratuity to each order.
While teenagers are stereotyped to be of the texting generation, cofounder Seamus Woodruff, says Procure Maine prefers to connect with a phone call to ensure they are delivering first-rate service while making sure the order is “exactly what the customer wants.”
“Two of the things we value most as a company are delivering superior quality goods to our customers, as well as supporting the community that has done so much for us our entire lives,” says Woodruff.
To this end, Procure Maine partners with Black Point Seafood and Milkweed Farm when a customer’s shopping list calls for such items.
“It has been incredible how many people go out of their way to help us succeed,” said cofounder Owen Stefanakos. “Nearly everyone we talk to has someone to get us in contact with or shares advice about our business.”
The three friends, who met in elementary school, aren’t new to the gig economy. In fact, Woodruff has helped on his family’s farm for as long as he can remember, developing a strong work ethic that later helped him land him jobs busing tables and working for a baker. Stark-Chessa has a similar story, washing dishes at a pizza joint before quickly getting promoted to chef. And Stefanakos was a shoe salesman his sophomore year, out-earning his older colleagues on commissions.
When Stark-Chessa turns 18 this fall, the friends plan on using their hard-earned summer cash for another joint business-venture: Buying an investment property that the three plan to rent out to pay the mortgage.
The idea to get into real estate came during quarantine, when the teens turned to books about business and investment. But behind every great idea is a greater support system.
“All of our parents have been incredibly supportive,” said Stefanakos. “My mom has given us advice on design and marketing, and my dad, an entrepreneur himself, has helped guide us through all the different pitfalls of business. We are learning every day, and their advice has been essential to our success.”
Although the boys are passionate entrepreneurs, eager to hone their business approach, they are also looking forward to interacting with others, especially after COVID-19 has taken away so many social opportunities during the past several months.
“We all love to connect with people,” said Stark-Chessa. “If this gives us the opportunity to meet people, then that is a huge plus for us.”
To learn more about Procure Maine or to request their services, visit procuremaine.com or call 207-295-3507.