What is IGNITE? The IGNITE Design and Innovation Center will be a co-making center in Biddeford, ME for early-stage, small manufacturers whose competitive advantage is design. Think of the maker who is working from their kitchen table without much support or the right tools or resources who wants help scaling their viable idea up.

What would IGNITE look like? IGNITE would feature studio spaces, as well as shared workspaces, a conference room, gallery/retail space and a makerspace to facilitate prototyping as well as with support services such as shared kitchen, shared equipment, shipping facilities (for e-commerce).

How will IGNITE build community? Once we are beyond the pandemic, IGNITE will develop community among its members and connections to business and marketing assistance through Engine’s (the nonprofit parent) vast connections in the business, political, post-secondary education, and art and design community. IGNITE will support the broader public and youth by offering education and training in design thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Who gets to be part of IGNITE? In Year 1, IGNITE will issue a request for proposals and the mentor-board will review and invite 6+ applicants to join the first cohort. That cohort will remain together for at least a year. In Year 1, there is funding to fully-support at least one BIPOC maker who income qualifies and the goal is to support more.

Where is IGNITE getting funding? In Year 1, Engine has raised $20,000 through its Founder’s Fund as a match to a Maine Community Foundation $25,000 StartUp ScaleUp grant. Additional funding is needed and a plan is being crafted to seek foundation and Federal funds to support this initiative.

How will IGNITE create impact? IGNITE will focus on building a more resilient and sustainable community within and beyond Biddeford by offering education and training in design thinking, human-centered design, innovation, and entrepreneurship (with expertise provided by stakeholders such as MECA, the University of Maine Foster Center for Student Innovation, York County Community College, Maine SBDC, Maine Center for Entrepreneurs, for example). Special attention will be paid to programming for youth in the intersection of creation, design, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Will IGNITE create sustainable jobs? Yes, this is a goal of IGNITE, to empower makers who may have to work 2-3 jobs to make ends meet to be able to  focus on their dream of owning their own small creative business and charting their own future.

IGNITE is an initiative of Engine, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Biddeford, Maine, focused on propelling the creative community to create a more robust innovation environment. 


In 2018, Engine was awarded a $25,000 EDA grant to complete a feasibility study for IGNITE. The IGNITE Design and Innovation Coworking Center (“IGNITE”), a program of Engine, Inc., is designed to be a coworking space for young, small manufacturers for whom design is a primary competitive advantage. Serving entrepreneurs who are makers and creators as well as businesspersons, IGNITE will provide focused support not already present in Maine’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, while leveraging existing resources to train and educate its members. IGNITE will build community among its members and with the broader Biddeford and Southern Maine creative community by offering programming in design thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship. An annual youth entrepreneurship program will have the same focus, and complement existing Engine youth programs. 

IGNITE will be a natural complement to the renovated Marble Block, with its advantageous location on Main Street in Biddeford’s reviving downtown. The Coworking Center will occupy the second floor of the Marble Block, and share conference rooms, kitchen facilities and a makerspace on the first floor with Engine. The first floor will also incorporate a gallery/retail space to display and sell the products made by IGNITE members, among others. The makerspace will be outfitted with equipment relevant to the IGNITE members, such as industrial sewing machines, laser cutters, 3-D printers and high-resolution color printers. Some programming may leverage the third-floor event space. 

Camoin 310 concludes that IGNITE is a feasible project. 

  • The market for its services is present in the Biddeford and York County region, and a survey of potential clients found strong interest. 
  • The model, a coworking center for design, is well documented and has been effectively implemented elsewhere, including in Maine. 
  • A detailed financial analysis reveals that the program will be cash flow positive after an initial grant or investment for fitting out the space and other startup costs. 
  • Both IGNITE and Engine enjoy strong support among local economic development organizations and the community, and 
  • Engine’s Board is ready to implement the project. 

To be successful, IGNITE will need to stay focused on its narrow mission to support design-based manufacturers, and curate its membership carefully, while balancing the need to keep the space fully occupied. A detail-oriented professional with strong customer service skills will need to be hired to market IGNITE and coordinate its services. The space should be carefully and thoughtfully planned to provide an authentic and vibrant location for entrepreneurs, but with consideration for amenities like Wi-Fi, sound control and privacy. Lastly, positive, mutually beneficial relationships with other entrepreneurial support providers in Maine’s entrepreneurial ecosystem (for example, Maine College of Art, the University of Maine Foster Center, York County Community College, Maine Small Business Development Center, and Maine Center for Entrepreneurs) will ensure the provision of quality training and services to IGNITE members. 

Camoin 310 estimates that the economic impact of this project will be 34 total jobs, over $1.3 million in earnings, and nearly $4.4 million in sales in York County, annually. The economic impact is based on the assumption that the 25 clients occupying the space are full time equivalent workers and new entrants into the York County market.

Concept rendering by Mobile Studio Design for INGITE, partially funded by a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Environmental Protection Agency.


UMAINE OFFICE OF INNOVATION AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: The OIED team at the University of Maine is excited to take the next steps forward with you in creating a business incubation and accelerator program for makers in York County. OIED provides the business services at one of the longest-standing and most successful business incubators in the state of Maine, the UpStart Center for Entrepreneurship, formerly the Target Technology Center. In addition, this team created the successful Foster Center for Student Innovation, the first student incubator in Maine, and provides coaching and support services at the business incubators at the Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research in Franklin and the Union River Center for Innovation in Ellsworth. OIED also serves as the primary connection point for start-ups and existing companies to use the facilities and expertise at the University of Maine. OIED will leverage their existing resources and expertise to help operate the program at a lower cost and to develop synergies with UMaine and our other partner incubators and programs. OIED will also develop pathways for IGNITE clients to work with the University of Maine’s Advanced Manufacturing Center as they scale their projects. Specifically, OIED will provide the following assistance:

  • Business coaching – a monthly coaching session with each client
  • Non-coaching activities to include connections to mentors/resources, etc.
  • Planning and organizing one workshop per month (not including summer/holiday months) – 8 per year

THINKTANK BIDDEFORD: From startup attorneys, corporate law, branding, web development, finance, and creative services, members of Biddeford’s first co-working space can offer mentorship support. 


Karin Gregory, Blue Highway Capital

KARIN GREGORY, board chair of Engine, is a Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Blue Highway Capital. She has over 30 years of business experience as an attorney, executive and early stage investor. She spent five years as Vice President at Mass Ventures, an early stage socially responsible venture capital fund focused on urban and rural areas of Massachusetts. Prior to co-founding Blue Highway, Karin served as Chair of CEI Ventures, a socially responsible impact private equity firm and served on the board of its parent company, Coastal Enterprises, Inc (CEI), a nonprofit lender and investor specializing in rural business and community development, financing and related policy. She serves on for-profit and non-profit boards throughout New England. In 2006, Karin co-founded Furman, Gregory Deptula (FGD Law), a full service law firm which represents early stage technology companies and investors throughout New England. Karin has extensive contacts throughout the region’s technology, business, and civic communities. She is active in a number of relevant industry and professional organizations and is frequently a guest speaker at many private equity events throughout the New England area. Karin holds a B.A. degree from Wells College, an M.P.H. from Boston University in Health Services, and a J.D. degree from UNH School of Law, as well as a certificate in Advanced Licensing. Karin is licensed to practice law in Massachusetts and in Maine.

Ken Rother, Rev @ Ithaca, NY

KEN ROTHER is the manager of Rev Ithaca, an accelerator located in downtown Ithaca. He is a Venture Partner at Cayuga Venture Fund since 2014. Mr. Rother is a member of the eLab teaching team at Cornell and Entrepreneur in Residence at Launch NY. In addition, Mr. Rother is a lecturer for Cornell’s eLab and Entrepreneur in Residence at Rev. He joined CVF in 2013 as an Advisor and had served as a Member of Advisory Board. He was a Venture Partner at CVF. Previously, Mr. Rother served as a Senior Vice President of Technology for digital media at Discovery Communications.

Pepin Gelardi, Tomorrow Lab

PEPIN GELARDI: Partner, Innovation Strategy & Industrial Design
Pepin Gelardi works at the intersection of purpose and possibility, exploring the role of entrepreneurship and technology in solving future-facing problems. As a Partner at Tomorrow Lab®, Pepin leads the Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering teams to invent and develop new, impactful hardware products. After hours, Pepin teaches workshops in design, aspires to become a Pasta Scientist, and creates site-specific art with his wife Teresa.


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