Four years ago Wayne and I wanted to attend a service at an Epsicopal chapel in a tony area but we were told we were not welcome because they were not open to the public. Services were for the “locals” only. It’s not a good feeling to be turned away from a church that has an “All Welcome” sign in the front. One doesn’t expect a church to be run like a country club, but to be clear we no longer were interested in attending services there. Even so there is a kind of outrage and sadness at the mentality and hypocrisy.
I just had a somewhat similar experience only this was at the level of state government. Maine has a “Maine Made” program with the mission to “build recognition for Maine products, their producers, and Maine industries.” As a Maine business in good standing for twenty years (and I pay the state $85 annually just so I can be in business), I wanted to apply to once again have a business profile on their website now that I have my new line of Christmas luminaries. I had been a member for over a decade until I took a break from making cards and crafts four years ago. Now they are more exclusive and only accept people whose products have been in existence for three years with a few thousand minimum in sales of that product the year prior. The program director told me that when I reached a point where I had to “quit my day job” was when I could contact them to apply.
I don’t understand why, if they are here to promote small businesses in Maine making products, one has to first be a success by their definition? Mind you all I wanted was to have a business profile on their website. Are Mainers manufacturing things at home only part-time not a valued and valid part of the state economy worthy of a meager business profile? What about retirees who need to bring in extra money, or people who aren’t able-bodied or parents and homemakers (that’s their day job they can’t quit) looking to bring in some extra income making high-quality items in the state? When did this public service to Maine businesses become more like a private club with gatekeepers to keep the small people out?
I spoke with the head of Economic & Community Development to convey to her that it seems discriminatory for them to not offer a web presence to those who make a Maine made product according to their requirements other than the volume and three years prior. Not everyone has the ability, time or goal to bring it to the next level. In my case, as someone who is a semi-retired homemaker and has other business projects this is to be a small seasonal business.
“Why would you want to be on our website if you can’t keep up with the demand? Hinckley Yachts is a member of our program, to give you an example.”
Ahhh OK, so the state program is now like a country club. When I get very stressed my tinnitus gets quite loud so I knew my blood pressure was rising.
“As it happens, I am married to a former yacht builder who now manages a boat yard. I can assure you that many of the boat yards in Maine are having trouble keeping up with the demand.”
I mean it’s not like I was applying to some ridiculous “influencer” program or asking for funding and partnership on Shark Tank! In fact I wanted NO handouts, no grants or loans, just a bio on the website.
The part though that really seems striking is the excerpt in the state rules which states that items having anything religious on them are NOT permitted to be a part of the program.
Hello, Jesus! I make Christmas luminaries! Previously when I was a member I made Christmas cards but they were pretty much all Santa and such. This time around I’m offering religious artwork on the luminaries. I told her that I thought that it seemed discriminatory to exclude a product if it has something Jesus-related on it for Christmas. She said well the rules were old and she’s sure if I checked other old documents that I would find other examples. She also said the state probably doesn’t want to be seen as marketing religion. I replied that they are simply marketing Maine manufacturers.
The phone call concluded with me stating that I was clear that I am not a fit for their program and I have no interest in being a part of it, but that I believe it is ableist and discriminatory. I made the suggestion that they offer tiers of membership, the most basic being a simple web presence. I don’t need a web presence on their website but it would have been helpful.
Anyway I’m now working on a Nativity luminary!