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Talking Top Gun with cityLIFE nature kits

The Top Gun Entrepreneurship Accelerator has started once again, and we're so excited to tell you about our new class of entrepreneurs! Now if you're not familiar with Top Gun, it is a four-month experience that delivers education and support to Maine’s most promising entrepreneurs. This is done by having the entrepreneurs workshop with mentors and peers, listen to successful entrepreneurs discuss vital topics, then apply those lessons to their own businesses, and by having the participants develop & practice their business pitches.

To start our “Talking Top Gun” blog, I chatted with Deanna Fahey and Mary Ellen McAllister of cityLIFE nature kits. CityLIFE is actually located right here at the UpStart Center for Entrepreneurship, and they create nature-based alternative education curriculum, introducing an interdisciplinary aspect by interweaving multiple topics and blending them seamlessly for the child's experience. The duo started their company with monthly subscription kits that included nature-based activities for kids, particularly for those living in cities, but they are now more focused on the curriculum that they’ve developed for Montessori schools.

What was your inspiration for starting cityLIFE nature kits?

Deanna: My daughter and our family collect a lot of natural materials when we’re out walking, so we had a build up of all of those materials in our house. I was already doing nature-based education consulting when I came across a monthly subscription kit, and I thought a good way to get rid of all the natural material and combine my love of incorporating nature into curriculum would be to create a nature-based education kit.

What do you hope to gain by participating in Top Gun?

Mary Ellen: I hope that our business or we, as individuals, can become more business savvy; we really have no business experience. Understanding the ins and outs of the business world and what it takes to keep moving forward as entrepreneurs (is important to us). (We also hope to gain) the support from being in a room with other entrepreneurs who are having the same problems that we’re having, which reassures us that it’s not just us (who are having those issues). (We’re also hoping to gain insight) from the program coordinators and mentors who know what pitfalls to look for.

What is your long-term vision for cityLIFE nature kits?

Deanna: Our long-term vision is to (have cityLIFE) become a sustainable income but stay small enough that we still have control over the company. We have certain standards that we adhere to, and I wouldn’t want to sell out to somebody who doesn’t follow those same standards.

If you want to learn more about cityLIFE, visit their website at

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