By Danny Monahan
Small Business Administration Vermont District Office Public Information Officer
Chance, destiny, karma, whatever one may call it, a chance meeting is working out for two women who decided to move to Brattleboro to start small businesses.
Danielle Bochneak practiced commercial and intellectual property litigation in Chicago for five years before implementing the next step of her life plan, opening a bakery with a focus on organic and locally sourced ingredients. Bochneak chose Brattleboro due to its central location, access to environmentally responsible and high quality food suppliers, and a widely-accepted locavore culture. Mel Baiser, a seventh generation Vermonter, was living primarily in San Francisco as well as Latin America over the past 15 years before she decided to return to her home state and start a construction management business.
Both had the dream and the ambition to start a business, but neither had extensive experience, so they decided in May to attend a Start Your Own Business workshop, a four-hour workshop for first-time business owners. It was during this time that Bochneak and Baiser met for the first time.
“In the workshop, Mel discussed her experience in estimating and construction and her aspirations to build her own construction management business - to guide homeowners and business owners through the complicated and stressful construction process. I knew she would be an invaluable resource,” said Bochneak.
Baiser and Bochneak met shortly after the class to discuss business plans and timelines, and there agreed to work together - each providing feedback regarding the other's ongoing business development, Bochneak suggesting legal considerations to Baiser, and Baiser serving as project manager to Bochneak's space build-out.
“It’s great to see two Start Your Own Business participants help each other in the early stages of their businesses. It’s cooperation at its best,” said Debra Boudrieau, VtSBDC Brattleboro Area Business Advisor and the workshop instructor. “The planning, asking for assistance when needed, being open to new ideas and having unlimited energy … they are both shining examples of how to start a business.”
Although neither Baiser nor Bochneak had the experience of owning and running a small business, both came to the Start your Own Business workshop well prepared.
“I have my participants in the class fill in a worksheet before they meet with me for the first individual session,” said Boudrieau. “They both did that work and so it meant when we did have the one-on-one time we could get right to work. Their prep saved them a lot of time and meant we could hit the ground running in getting their businesses off to a great start.”
During the workshop students learn about writing an effective business plan, financing options, loan packages, marketing and the resources available to launching a successful business.
“The Starting Your Own Small Business workshop was extremely useful and presented the opportunity for Danielle and me to team up on the renovation project for her new bakery,” said Baiser.
After months of working together, today both are running their companies. Bochneak started Little City Baking Co. and Baiser is operating Baiser Construction Management.
“Aside from our working relationship on the bakery, it has been great having another woman-run business entrepreneur to bounce ideas off of and seek support from as we both embark on the development of our new businesses. I appreciate that Vermont offers so many resources to small business owners and particularly benefit from Debra's consultation,” said Baiser.
The VtSBDC can help others looking to open a business in Brattleboro or other Vermont communities.
“We can always assist in multitude of ways, from helping to assess opportunity to helping brainstorm solutions to challenges,” said Boudrieau. “Our motto is ‘you can be in business for yourself, but you don’t have to be in business by yourself.’ I think that says it all. It is challenging to run a business in a vacuum and we can provide the place to be in active conversation with an advisor who has real business experience and is committed to your success.”
Small Business Development Centers are the Small Business Administration’s largest partnership program. SBDC provide management and technical assistance to help Americans start, run and grow businesses. The Vermont SBDC has advisors located in 12 regional offices. Advisors offer confidential, one-on-one business advising to business owners and startups at no cost.
For more information, visit www.vtsbdc.org.