By Danny Monahan
Small Business Administration Vermont District Office Public Information Officer
Three children walk into a gelato shop and begin trying the different flavors of the day. Once they decide on a flavor, they leave laughing while licking their cones.
“That’s the best part,” said Theo Kennedy. “Seeing the smiles on people’s faces while enjoying our gelato.”
A little more than a year ago, Theo and his wife Nora decided to open Chill, a family business, on State Street in Montpelier.
“Opening a family business was at the core of Chill,” said Theo Kennedy. “When we started this business we wanted to be together more, not less.”
The entire family works there. The children, Patrick, Aine and Sasha each spend time after school and on weekends behind the counter scooping, making gelato or hanging out.
“We love having our family here with us, it doesn’t even feel like we are working at times,” said Theo Kennedy.
The Kennedys thought they could make Chill work because of the economic growth Montpelier has experienced over the past few years. They felt downtown was missing an ice cream shop.
There is an endless selection of flavors changing daily. They have exotic flavors like Coconut and Ginger, Rose and Mango Cream. Others have Italian names such as, Frutti di Bosco, Donatelloa and Stracciatella. Then there are concoctions like Lemon Coconut Shortbread, Clove Orange and Blueberry Black Currant. The list goes on.
“With the exception of mangos and a few other items, we mostly use local ingredients,” said Theo Kennedy. “We try to make gelato in a traditional way so we can be successful.”
According to Nora Kennedy, the chief gelato maker, Chill’s gelato is a Sicilian-style, which means it does not contain eggs. She said it is made from scratch in small batches daily. Gelato is similar to ice cream, but it contains less cream, less air, and is served slightly above freezing temperatures to bring out its flavors.
The Kennedys love of gelato stems from their time in Italy. Theo lived in Italy for two years and Nora has visited there as well, so they are not unfamiliar with Italian cuisine.
The Kennedy’s opened Chill’s doors Sept. 28, 2012 after obtaining a Small Business Administration 7(a) loan. The 7(a) Loan Program is SBA’s primary program for helping start-up businesses. With the capital guaranteed by the SBA, the Kennedys were able to lease their space, make some renovations, and purchase a refrigerator, mixer and other items. The SBA does not make direct loans, but rather guarantees loans made by participating lenders.
“The SBA helped fund our business dream,” said Nora Kennedy. “I’m glad there is an agency that realizes small businesses are essential to society.”
The Kennedys said it’s mostly been a positive experience with very few downsides.
“Running a small business has been challenging because we are still learning some of the basics of it, but it’s been very rewarding.”
The Kennedys feel Chill has become part of the Montpelier community. Chill has so many regular customers; the Kennedys know many by name.
“The next best thing to working with your family is interacting with the customers,” said Nora Kennedy. “Montpelier is a great community. The general vibe is people are happy when they come in here. They come in to get gelato.”
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.
By Danny Monahan
Small Business Administration Vermont District Office public information officer
A small business in Randolph, Vt. is constructing a multimillion dollar state-of-the-art facility that will benefit the business and the town.
Freedom Foods, a food production and packaging business, is located in a 7,500 square-foot former textile mill on Pleasant Street and will be upgrading to a 24,910 square-foot building, which is under construction on Beanville Road.
“We work with artisan food producers to develop, produce, package and distribute their creations,” said Cathy Bacon, Freedom Foods owner. “Each recipe is hand-crafted in small batches by real people who are passionate about food. We don't do mega-production, we create fabulous food. We create products each year you don’t even know you are going to like a year from now. ”
Since its establishment in 2008, it has continuously grown
“Every three to six months it seemed we needed more space,” said Cathy Bacon. “By 2011 we were out of space and by 2012 we had to become more selective when taking on new clients because we did not have the space or the infrastructure to meet demands,” said Bacon. “We were at our maximum capacity.”
In early 2013 it occurred to Bacon Freedom Foods had to either move to or build a larger facility. She knew she wanted to keep her business in Randolph, but it did not have an available space meeting her needs and there was piece of property down the road to build a new facility, but it lacked utilities.
To keep Freedom Foods in Randolph and obtain the utilities needed, the town applied for and received a Community Development Block Grant through the Vermont Community Development Program. Community Development Block Grants provide capital to cities and towns to address public improvement projects. Randolph will build a 3,000-foot wastewater extension down South Pleasant Street to the Beanville Road Industrial Park, which benefits the town because the expansion of the municipal services will allow others to establish businesses in the area.
Freedom Foods financed the construction of their new facilities with a Small Business Administration 504 loan, which is an economic development program supporting small business growth, and helps communities through business expansion and job creation.
“By the SBA supporting Freedom Foods, they are supporting several entities because 90 percent of our clients are small businesses,” said Bacon.
The 504 loan program provides long-term, fixed-rate financing for purchasing and renovating land, buildings and equipment.
“We looked at alternatives to the SBA, but SBA had the flexibility to work with our capital needs,” said Bacon’s father Bill Baumann, an engineer who helped design the new facility and has assisted overseeing its construction. “We are very pleased with the SBA.”
SBA 504 loans are provided through certified development companies. CDCs work with banks and other lenders to make loans on reasonable terms, helping lenders retain growing customers and provide Community Redevelopment Act credit. Freedom Foods secured their 504 loan through Granite State Development Corp.
Once complete, Freedom Foods will be able to increase its employees from 24 to 36. The new facilities will have clean box technology, production rooms with under slab plumbing, flash freezing capabilities, loading docks and a staging area.
“Growing a company and building a new facility is never easy work, but it’s pretty refreshing when multiple organizations can come together to assist a town and a small business grow economically,” said Bacon.