Kate McAleer, founder of Bixby & Co., the Maine-based artisan chocolate bar company, has been named the winner of the annual Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for 2015. 

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has awarded the title to McAleer (pictured) for her success as the founder of the chocolate company Bixy & Co.

Specifically, they point to the fact that she has grown the company 100 percent year-on-year over the past three years, increased jobs, created an innovative product, and demonstrated potential, all while under 35 years of age.

Founded in 2011 as an organic producer of chocolate bars, McAleer moved the company to Maine from New York State in 2013. Now headquartered in Rockland, Maine, the company hand-makes premium chocolate bars with the finest chocolate, nuts, fruits and spices to create a healthier option for a candy bar.

At 27, Kate represents a new breed of young entrepreneurs who are breaking with the traditional career path. They possess a renewed American spirit that drives them to create new businesses that are socially responsible while incredibly supportive of local communities. Kate’s life experiences have shaped every aspect of Bixby chocolate. The greatest inspiration for her recipes has been her strong, intimate relationships with family and community in addition to an active, health-conscious lifestyle.

Ruth Cash-Smith, of the Women’s Business Center, nominated McAleer for the award. She says McAleer is always looking opportunities to grow her company.

“Kate has steered this ever-growing, family-owned company into national distribution in an amazingly short amount of time,” Cash-Smith says. “No longer an untried newcomer to the complex and difficult world of wholesale chocolate manufacturing, Bixby & Co. is now ably navigating new waters in terms of determining how best to strategically grow their company, according to their own values and mission.”

McAleer says being named Younge Entrepreneur of Years is a humbling experience.

“My family and my lifetime experiences were my inspiration for creating Bixby & Co. and I’m thankful to have had such a strong support system over the years,” she adds. “It’s also very gratifying to be recognized for the years of hard work that have gone into creating and building the company.”

Bixby Bars are made using organic chocolate, natural-sweet dried fruits, artisanal nuts, exotic spices and brown rice crisps, creating a light and unique indulgence for the health-conscious consumer.

The company produces ten Bixby Bar flavors (including five vegan-verified options) that are certified gluten-free, kosher and completely free of genetically modified organisms, preservatives and syrups.

Products are available online at www.bixbyco.com and in more than 800 stores nationally, including Whole Foods Markets; Earth Fare; Sprouts; The Fresh Market (New England); Mollie Stones; Southern Season; and many other independent natural food stores, as well online retailers Mouth, Abe's Market, Vegan Cuts, Vitamin Cottage and Amazon.

McAleer will be honored at an SBA reception on May 5, 2015 at the Augusta Country Club in Manchester, Maine.