Celebrating Eloise Vitelli & Our New Enterprise Fund

Joyce Blanchard and Eloise Vitelli

Joyce Blanchard and Eloise Vitelli

On Tuesday, June 26, 2018, we celebrated the retirement of our long-time staff member, Eloise Vitelli.  The event commemorated her 38 years of leadership and dedication to helping Maine people find economic security. In honor of her commitment and contributions, we also announced the establishment of the New Ventures Maine Enterprise Fund, with generous support from the Bill and Joan Alfond Foundation and The Cosmopolitan Club of Bath.

As Sally Davis shared, “Eloise is the true pioneer and entrepreneur – sharing her skills and expertise and making Maine a better place to live, raise our families and add value to our communities.” The Enterprise Fund will ensure that the important work Eloise pioneered will continue to flourish for the next 40 years and beyond.

Established as a Displaced Homemakers program by the Maine Legislature in 1978, NVME helps adults throughout Maine find good jobs, start or return to college, launch small businesses, and manage their money from 9 locations and additional outreach sites. Eloise officially stepped down from her guiding position on the staff of New Ventures Maine (NVME), formerly Women, Work, and Community, in early June.

We (NVME) take our name from the ground-breaking microenterprise training introduced by Eloise in 1985.  It provides working adults with a pathway to successful business ownership. Beginning with the first class of 15 women, New Ventures Entrepreneurship Training (now called Venturing Forth) offered step-by-step guidance on how to put a business plan together. The class has since helped well over 4000 women and men develop the competence, confidence, and connections to start their own venture.

The new fund will ensure the longevity of the program by supporting enterprise-related program expenses, including:

  • Innovations in service delivery such as the use of technology and distance learning;
  • Professional staff development;
  • Program assessment and evaluation;
  • Services which facilitate Maine entrepreneurs in developing and growing their businesses.

NVME has opened doors for non-traditional entrepreneurs, including low-income Mainers, unemployed and laid off workers, immigrants and refugees, and individuals with disabilities to try their hand at self-employment and has contributed to Maine’s entrepreneurial eco-system.

With leadership from NVME, Maine was first in the nation to adopt a program allowing unemployment recipients to start a business. A marketing mini-grant program, now in its 8th year, serves as a catalyst for small enterprises all over the state to grow into new markets and become more sustainable. As one recipient said, “just getting the grant was a huge validation – someone believes in us!”

Executive Director, Gilda Nardone, reflects, “Eloise is a visionary and strategic thinker who has both challenged and guided us to innovate and adapt over the years to our changing economic and political environment. Thank you, Eloise, for opening us up to the possibilities and showing us how to grasp them and for helping us find our own strength to honor our past and create our future together.”

If you would like to help make a difference by supporting Maine entrepreneurs, please visit our donate page.