WHEN Maine Cottage Furniture Inc. started doing business last year, it faced a challenge common to all startups: how to break into the market. That's where the Maine Products Marketing Program came in.
The program, part of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, included the firm in the 10,000 catalogs it distributed to buyers around the country.
And it arranged for the company, along with other small manufacturers of furniture, to participate in a permanent exhibit at the International Home Furnishing Market in High Point, N.C.
Since October, says Peter Bass of Maine Cottage Furniture, the company's involvement in the program has led to more business in the first quarter of 1990 than in all of 1989.
``It's been the single most important thing to us in marketing our product,'' Mr. Bass says.
The Maine program itself is new. Launched last May, the program has one staff member and a $250,000 budget, says director Joan Anderson.
While other states promote their agricultural produce or arts and crafts, Maine is unique in focusing on consumer goods and aiming specifically at wholesalers, Ms. Anderson says.
``We wanted to help companies increase revenues and thus employ more people,'' she says. The average firm in the program has five employees.
The program consists of five components:
The buyer's guide, now in its second printing.
The permanent exhibit in High Point.
Technical assistance seminars in marketing and packaging.
Product tags that identify a product as ``Maine Made, America's Best.''
A toll-free number for buyers to inquire about Maine products.
Participants say the state effort has given them a boost. ``It's been very helpful in the sense of giving some exposure,'' says William Jebb, president of Holley Farms Spring Water Company in Farmington.
``It's exposure that we would not ordinarily get without doing a considerable amount of advertising.''