About Us

The Institute for Family-Owned Business is a nonprofit 501 (c) 3 organization committed to supporting, strengthening, and empowering family-owned businesses throughout the state of Maine.

Our Vision

To provide unique information, resources and networking opportunities to enable Maine’s business-owning families to prosper and achieve their fullest potential.

  • Premier resource for family-run businesses in Maine
  • Predominant source of outreach programs for family-owned businesses
  • Recognized expert in and networking resource for inimitable family-business issues.

Our Values

We take pride in our values. The following beliefs and principles drive everything we do.

  • Family-owned businesses, their long-term success, and their unique contributions to their communities and economy
  • Peer-to-peer support and confidential problem-solving
  • Life-long learning and investment in our members and our community
  • Integrity and expect to be a trusted resource for all employees of all our members
  • Inclusion and are welcoming and respectful of all people
  • Quality programming and personalized attention


The Institute for Family-Owned Business (IFOB) is a nonprofit 501 (c) 3 organization dedicated to the success of family-owned businesses. We promote, support, and champion the success of family-owned businesses – the backbone of our economy – with education, networking, and other services.

Our History

The Institute was formed in 1994 by prominent Portland business owner Shep Lee, of Lee Auto Malls, who was beginning to think about a leadership transition in his third-generation auto dealership. His closest resource was in New Hampshire, so Lee approached the University of Southern Maine about creating an organization to support Maine family businesses. Lee, his daughter, Cathy, and key USM leaders appointed a director and launched the Institute as a part of the University, with 20 member businesses.

Since its first public program, the Institute has grown in its mission to help with succession planning and other challenges unique to family-owned businesses. The IFOB has become a comprehensive nonprofit resource for a broad range of family businesses of all sizes, offering continuing education, networking opportunities, and consulting services. These programs help family business operators better understand and appropriately face their unique challenges.

Over the next decade, the organization realigned itself to ensure that a majority of the board members were family business people; since 2008, the Institute has operated as a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the generous support of its founding sponsors: MEMIC, Verrill, BerryDunn, TD Bank, Clark Insurance, A Marsh & Marsh McLennan Agency, LLC Company, Richard Brothers Financial Advisors and many other generous sponsors.

In addition to offering a variety of educational programs and events to address the complex and varied concerns of family-owned businesses, the Institute for over 20 years has recognized outstanding Maine businesses through its annual Maine Family Business Awards.

Maine Family Business Awards 2022

How We Do It / Why it Matters

Family-owned businesses represent about 80% of all businesses in Maine. Through consulting, seminars, workshops, and networking, the Institute assists family-owned firms in meeting the unique managerial challenges and opportunities of operating and sustaining a successful family enterprise. An executive director, small staff and a volunteer board of directors guide this nonprofit entity.

View Programs & Events


Five Reasons To Join the IFOB!

Free or discounted rate to over 50 programs (Zoom, in-person, or hybrid) Check out our new archive of past programs!
A one-stop shop - Unlimited resources to our network. If you need it, we know who has it or where to find it.
Support system - Learn and lean on your peers and other professionals
All employees - YES, all employees are covered under your membership, family and non-family members too!
Advertising -Submit member programs, events, news, job listings, podcasts, resources and more within our NEW member portal! Exclusive to members only!

See for yourself what we can do for you.

Become a Member

Code of Conduct

Our purpose is to provide opportunities for family-owned businesses to gain knowledge and expertise concerning the challenges specific to family businesses. Shared expertise comes from IFOB resources, invited experts, Sponsors, Associate Partners, and family business members. Through the IFOB, relationships will develop that are valuable to all concerned.

We foster an environment necessary for trust and sharing. Therefore, you can’t use the proceedings of the IFOB for professional advantage. We expect confidentiality in all matters discussed and shared in our programs. Solicitation of business at events/programs is inconsistent with the overall mission of the IFOB. Thank you for respecting this code of conduct.

The People Who Make
Everything Possible.

Catherine Wygant Fossett

Executive Director

Brooke Stewart

Director of Communications

Joseph A. Capozza III


Dottie Chalmers Cutter

VP of Operations

Deirdre Wadsworth


Jacques Santucci


Jeffrey Messer


David Ciullo


Mike Anderson


Gary Bergeron

CPWA® CRPS® QPFC Founder and Managing Partner

Joshua Ellis

Vice President

Shae-Li Fendler

Manager/Underwriting Analyst

Laura Linscott

CFP, Director of Internal Operations

Christopher Lynch


Paula Mahony


Shauna Miller

Vice President

Katie Rooks

Charitable and Community Relations Manager

Christopher R. Smith


Lydia Swann

Project Manager

Linda Varrell


Christopher Wasileski

Director of Development

Seth Webber


John Beauregard

Theresa Cloutier

Janet Cole Cross

Maddy Corson

Maureen Costello Wedge

Thomas Hussey

John Isaacson

Colleen McCracken

Francis J. O’Shea

Lindsay Skilling


Peer Advisory & Affinity Groups

Get Trusted Advice From Others Who Understand Your Unique Issues

Our affinity and peer groups are what differentiate IFOB from other similar organizations. Share information and receive guidance from like-minded people who have dealt with the same issues you face through conversations, discussions of unique issues for family-owned businesses, and informal access to resources.

Affinity Groups

Affinity groups consist of people who share similarities and interests. They meet several times throughout the year and include opportunities for networking and relationship building. Most of these Affinity Groups are open only to family-owned business members.

What are Peer Advisory Groups?

Peer advisory groups are small, confidential, facilitated discussion groups of about 8-10 family business members in non-competing companies that meet regularly. Members explore family business subjects of mutual interest, provide accountability and feedback, and define issues of importance for each member in a safe and open environment. Relevant topics include but aren’t limited to negotiations with family, gaining employee respect, etc.

We hold all discussions in the strictest confidence. Members sign a confidentiality agreement at the start of each year. We have two facilitators, Anne Hussey from Quad Group and Priscilla Hansen Mahoney from Blazing Trails Coaching, who lead these groups which are configured based on each person’s level of responsibility in their company.

Types of Affinity / Peer Groups

CEO Central

A facilitated roundtable discussion designed exclusively for family business CEOs with gross revenues above $ 5 million. Space is limited, and advance registration is required.

Women’s Leadership Forum

A facilitated roundtable discussion with fellow women in leadership roles in the family business. Our goals for this forum include support, encouragement, inspiration, and information. Space is limited, and registration in advance is required.

Next Gen - Executive I, II, III

A facilitated roundtable discussion with Next Generation members working at the top management levels within their company, i.e., Vice President, President, CEO, and CFO.

Next Gen - Executive Blend

A facilitated roundtable discussion group for those who have worked in the family business for a while. These people are now moving towards or into an executive role, i.e., a Finance Manager moving to an Operations Manager.


We are grateful for the support of our volunteers! They are the lifeblood of the Institute. Come join us by serving on one of the committees listed below:

This committee is authorized by the bylaws and are responsible for making decisions in the interim between board meetings. The composition includes the elected officers plus the paid executive in an ex-officio position.  The committee sets the Board meeting agendas and is careful not to usurp the Board’s authority or to appear to scheme; transparency is critical.

This committee assesses the organization’s governance needs, including leading the process to identify, nominate, recruit, and orient new board members.  It develops leadership and slates/nominates officers, promotes and provides education about the organization, field, and governance, conducts board self-assessments, and organizes the board retreat.

This task force is a sub-committee of the Governance Committee that meets a few times a year to develop the leadership pipeline and recommends slates/nominations for officers and future board members.

This task force is a sub-committee of the Governance Committee that develops our path to 501 (c) 6 status, if applicable while maintaining our 501 (c) 3 position.

This committee oversees processes and policies that guide and protect financial resources, including investments for the organization and the annual budget process.  The elected treasurer often chairs it and it doubles as the audit committee responsible for interfacing with the independent CPA reviewing the finances. 

This committee is responsible for developing the programs for the IFOB.  In the fall, the committee analyzes past programs, including attendance, surveys, and proposals for the coming year.  They recommend the number and content of the upcoming programs. The Board votes on such programs in the December meeting.  Once the slate of programs is developed, the committee works on individual programs as needed to work with speakers and develop the programs as they occur.

This task force is a sub-committee of the Programming Committee.  Each year the MFBA Task Force works with the IFOB staff and consultants to plan for and execute the awards held each year.  This task force is instrumental in developing a program that pays tribute to the past and looks toward the future.

The mission is to actively recruit new members to encourage member participation in association committees and activities. They determine if membership needs are being met and recommend measures or services that will better meet the changing needs of members. The committee considers the portfolio of member benefits; return on investments compared to dues paid and monitors the “member experience.”  It may review affinity-endorsed benefits and seek a meaningful feature or service that encourages continued membership.

Please contact Executive Director, Catherine Wygant Fossett, for further information.


Let’s Do Business Together!

Get in touch with us via phone, email, or online contact form, and we’ll be in touch to discuss the ways in which we can work together.

P.O. Box 3364
Portland, Maine 04104 USA