Two Bootstrapped Maine businesses

As promised, in this and one or two future posts, I’ll describe briefly several Maine businesses that are examples of the genre of bootstrapped businesses, and that have prospered without the benefits and costs of venture capital.

#1: Designer bags from used & recycled sails!
While exploring one of of the piers on Portland’s working waterfront, I came across Sea Bags.  It was before the doors were open, so I returned a day later during normal business hours.  At that time I observed 6-9  seamstresses hard at work, the store manager, and a couple other staff.  Also at this headquarters location was a large inventory of bags for purchase, or to serve as models of what Sea Bags could do on a custom basis.

As background, in 1999, Sea Bags was the first in the market to design and manufacture handmade tote bags and accessories from recycled sails. Founded and headquartered in Portland, Sea Bags claims it is built around three cornerstones: keeping production local, green in product and practice, and being involved in the community.

While the company has grown to nearly 50 employees, it is still located on the Portland’s working waterfront where all its bags are manufactured.  The product line now ranges from totes and wine bags to home decor and accessories. Custom Designed Sea Bags are also a cornerstone of the brand, allowing customers to design a Sea Bag that reflects their own style and personality.

Sea Bags is unique in that all products are handmade from recycled sails, ensuring that each bag is truly one-of-a-kind. The sail’s previous life on the water is apparent through the natural markings featured on the material that can range from salt and rust to wear and color variations.

Sea Bags recently opened their third retail location and first outside of Maine in Cape May, NJ.

Note: Sea Bags has a policy of no photos while in their facility.  Please see their website at for photos, order forms, loads of press mentions, etc.


#2: Entertaining and instructional boat tour with a real lobsterman!
Here we discuss a wonderful tour, described more fully on Captain John’s website,

Captain John himself!  He does all the LuLu tours.

Captain John himself! He does all the LuLu tours.

From “Captain John Nicolai is one of Maine’s most knowledgeable and entertaining lobster experts. The Captain has made it his mission to help sustain Maine’s lobster fishery by promoting its rich history and traditions, and teaching the importance of preserving the state’s lobster population. His belief is that the process starts by educating people. Captain John’s enthusiasm and sense of humor, as well as his great repertoire of tales from the Maine coast, make his presentations as fun as they are informative. The Captain has been featured many times in the national and international media, including the CBS Morning Show, the Food Network, the Travel Channel, PBS, the Outdoor Channel, the Outdoor Living Network, ITV of Ireland, TF1 of France and Japanese television, to name just a few.”

LuLu seats 40 or so customers and we understand Captain John does over 400 trips/year, working, obviously, only during the warmer months. Very knowledgeable about Maine and the lobster ecosystem and business, he also gives talks and lectures and especially likes to do so in Hawaii!

My wife and I were really fortunate to hear by word of mouth of this tour, which is out of Bar Harbor.  Not only does it offer an education on lobsters, but that is preceded by a run out to Eggrock Lighthouse and great views of nearby wildlife (seals, seabirds).  

Eggrock Lighthouse is a few miles out of Bar Harbor

Eggrock Lighthouse is a few miles out of Bar Harbor

Seals lounging as we passed by

Seals lounging as we passed by

In sum, the tour was exceptional, the best of its class, and is highly recommended.


One view of the crustacean closely identified with Maine, taken soon after we disembarked.

One view of the crustacean closely identified with Maine, taken soon after we disembarked.

P.S. Please don’t miss the details on Captain John, linked to here.  Yes, he’s a real entrepreneur.  In Maine.



Note: this and any future post are without commercial consideration – the comments are mine alone except when noted otherwise.

About Krist

Companion of Wally who is featured at More at
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