Women of Maine: Melissa Raftery & Megan Wood

Melissa Raftery & Megan Wood

Women of Maine: Melissa Raftery & Megan Wood

“Creating a space where people can come together and share their day-to-day lives and a cup of coffee is what local rural island life is all about.” -44 North Coffee owners, Megan Wood and Melissa Raftery

On a chilly, raw March morning on coast of Maine nothing warms you better than a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Seven years ago, Melissa Raftery and Megan Wood started brainstorming over steaming mugs of their favorite brew. How could they work for themselves and build a year-round life on Deer Isle? Previous experience in sales and logistics at an outdoor design and gear company gave the pair a taste for small business management and entrepreneurship. Self-employment is common on the island but most often takes the form of lobstering or seasonal industries related to summer tourist trade.

For fun, the pair of coffee aficionados started ordering random bags of US-roasted coffee from across the country. This caffeine-fueled pastime quickly turned into a product research mission. “When we were first floating the idea of coffee roasting, we took a road trip,” explained Megan, “which introduced us to some outstanding and influential people in the coffee industry; folks who kindly answered our wild questions and allowed us a peek into their operations.”

“We researched buying organic and fair trade coffee and found our first roasting machine on eBay,” mused Melissa. “It was a trial by fire education method—preferably without the fire!”  

The two started with a business model that promoted three main sales avenues: wholesale, direct/cafe/retail and internet sales, the three avenues which would allow for seasonal customer fluctuations in their rural proximity. Prior to opening their doors, Melissa and Megan worked with SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) to build a foundation and projects. “We would definitely recommend them to anyone at the beginning stages of developing a business plan,” they agreed.

44 North Coffee offers primarily single origin, hot and iced coffee as well as tea, pastry, internet and a welcoming space for people to gather year-round in Deer Isle village. In 2014 they secured a second seasonal location at 70 Main Street in Stonington and a mini-grant from Maine Women’s Fund grantee Maine New Ventures allowed them to hire a professional photographer. “Pictures can speak a thousand words and these photos tell our whole story to customers, press publications, social media—to the world—in a beautiful format,” Melissa explained.

Through the support of the island community, 44 North Coffee is in its sixth year, employs 7-9 people seasonally and is supporting sustainable business and environmentally-sound agriculture. The Maine Women’s Fund is pleased to recognize Megan Wood and Melissa Raftery for their inspirational entrepreneurship. Click here to watch a video about 44 North Coffee.

If you know of a Maine women or girl whose story deserves recognition, please email Lauren Webster LaFrance, Communications and Marketing Director at lauren@mainewomensfund.org

Posted 05.02.2016 under News and Resources