PORTLAND — Heather Chandler knows Maine’s allure.
“People want to get off the beaten path, ” Chandler said April 13. “People come to Maine because it is different and authentic.”
Her success in showing it to others through SunriseGuide publications earned Chandler this year’s Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year for Maine from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
SunriseGuide produces the SunriseGuide and the Green & Healthy Maine Visitor’s Guide annually, and the Green & Healthy Maine HOMES magazine twice a year.
“Our tourism publication was launched to deliver the Maine experience through the lens of sustainability and wellness,” Chandler said of getting the first guide started in 2006.
Patterned after a similar guide published in the Pacific Northwest, The SunriseGuide offers visitors articles, tips on healthy living event calendars and coupons.
When she started the SunriseGuide, Chandler said the movement towards sustainable commerce and living was new enough that local businesses could be hard to find.
“(Now) I’ve been so busy sometimes I am in the wave or under the wave,” she said of emerging businesses like yoga studios or farm-to-table restaurants.
Green & Healthy Maine Visitor’s Guide followed in 2012; Green & Healthy Maine HOMES was started in 2014.
“Our goal is to inspire people by educating them and connecting them to local resources,” Chandler said.
All are distributed in print and digitally, and Chandler said the phone apps for the Sunrise Guide could someday supplant the paper edition. But not yet.
“People love having a magazine in their hands,” she said.
Freelance written, designed and distributed, SunriseGuide is based in a small office on Elm Street in Bayside with Chandler and two other full-time employees.
SBA District Director Amy Bassett said Chandler’s work “serves as a powerful example to all entrepreneurs. In addition to growing her company, Heather is very committed to her community, further illustrating why she is such a deserving recipient.”
While presenting the scope of healthy alternatives to visiting and living in Maine, Chandler has also seen the emergence of locally owned businesses dedicated to sustainability and wellness throughout Maine.
“We work really hard to make sure we are representing other parts of the state, I always give that guidance to my writers,” Chandler said.
The new issue of the home guide focused on retrofitting older homes to promote sustainable living. Chandler said she was delighted to see a mobile home from the 1970s in the York County town of West Newfield featured.
“It is so replicable, people don’t think there could be a super efficient mobile home,” she said.
Chandler is originally from Massachusetts, but moved to Maine in middle school when her parents returned to their native state. After a stint as a technical writer, she worked at nonprofits, including Sweetser, before launching SunriseGuide.
Chandler has served on the board for Discover Downtown Westbrook, where she lives. SunriseGuide also offers schools the chance to sell the guides and keep half the proceeds as a fundraiser.
Support for local small businesses is key, too.
“I have so much respect for small business owners because I see how hard they work,” she said.
She credited a strong support staff and advice from friends on running a business for her continued success.
“I love producing these magazines. Every issue I learn more,” Chandler said. “I love the businesses we get to meet and the corners of Maine we get to go to because of the content we are producing.”
Heather Chandler is this year’s Small Business Administration Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year in Maine for SunriseGuide, which offers three sustainable living and wellness publications.