Andrew Boutin, general manager of Pellergy LLC founded the business in 2006 with a goal to cut home heating costs by using a locally renewable fuel. He started in his basement, moved to a two-car garage, and now works out of a 2,000 square-foot space inthe old North Barre Granite building. Andrew was new to owning a business and credits the Vermont Small Business Development Center for providing important technical assistance throughout the entire process, helping with his business plan, financial projections and business goals and objectives. Andrew also teamed up with a manufacturer in Finland and secured the exclusive rights to its fully automated burner systems - systems that Pellergy manufactures in America, mostly in Vermont. The system converts oil heating systems to wood pellets yet preserves most of the heating system components.
Years of Pellergy testing and further years of residential utilization in Northern Europe have established the reliability of the systems. Andrew redesigned the European system to standard U.S. dimensions, tolerances, materials and components. Then he found local fabrication shops to produce the parts and set up a local assembly operation. Rather than create his own sales and service staff, Andrew trains fully certified local home-heating companies' technicians to install and service wood pellet central heating systems and supports them with, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, live person technical support. He felt this was a better way to support existing businesses. Pellergy assists with the initial setup of the system, troubleshooting and routine maintenance whenever questions may arise. Because there is very little standardization in today's wood pellet home-heating world, installers are trained to meet customers' frequent need for a custom or semi-custom design.
By 2010, Andrew had created enough of a demand for his product that he was able to leave his job at General Dynamics to focus full time on Pellergy. The company also now sells fully integrated wood pellet boilers made from U.S. steel and cast iron, in three different sizes. They also offer greenhouse heaters with up to 200,000 btu output made in the States as well. Andrew has distributors in Vermont, Pennsylvania, Maine and Alaska and has trained 35 certified installers in those areas as well. In the first three years, sales have gone from nothing to over $200,000 in 2011.
The Vermont office of the Small Business Administration has given the Family-Owned Small Business Award to James and Karen Mount of Mount Family Group. Mount Family Group (MFG) was originally started in Burlington as a family-owned business in 1982 by David and Francis Mount. MFG is in the personnel placement business, specializing in temporary help. From $25,000 in sales when it began, MFG has grown to a nearly $30 million company.
In 1995, the Mounts began to look among their five children for a family member who could become involved with the company and eventually take over as manager or owner. Karen, the wife of their eldest son Stephen, joined the company in 1996 and learned every aspect of its operations. She became David Mount's main adviser in administration and marketing matters. Karen became instrumental in training employees, in helping open new offices and eventually took on the role of Director of Administration. In 1997, James Mount, the Mount's second son, joined the company and served for several years as a personnel recruiter and customer service representative. The Mounts established the company on five principals for dealing with workers and customers, the first of which they listed as 'outrageous customer service'. They also emphasized integrity, respect, fun and keeping the business family friendly.
In the fall of 2010 the transition to the second generation was completed with James Mount assuming 60 percent of the shares and Karen Mount 40 percent. James Mount says the company is looking at breaking all sales records this year. He also noted how pleased the company was to be recognized by the SBA. His father David also was pleased with the honor. 'I thought that award was fantastic,' David said. 'It validates the things we've been doing over the last 30 years. I'm very, very proud of our son James and daughter-in-law Karen. They've taken over the business and are doing a wonderful job.'
Five small business owners, four small business champions and a lender have been selected by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for outstanding success in their chosen fields.
Charles “Chach” Curtis Jr. CEO of Draker Laboratories, Inc., Burlington, Vermont has been named the SBA 2012 Vermont Small Business Person of the Year. Nominated by Cairn Cross, Managing Director, Fresh Tracks Capital, Curtis was selected for outstanding leadership related to his company’s staying power, employee growth, increase in sales, innovative ingenuity and contributions to the community.
Draker Laboratories, Inc., Burlington VT, provides monitoring, diagnostics and asset management services to commercial and utility-scale renewable energy systems. After pioneering the concept and cutting-edge means of evaluating solar power generation, Draker Laboratories, Burlington, VT, had a well-deserved reputation for technical leadership. The company’s founder, A.J. Rossman, had worked with one of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s resource partners, the VT Small Business Development Center, receiving information and counseling on the Small Business Innovation Research Program. Following its founding in 1999, and for several years, it remained a scrappy startup with mixed success in an emerging industry and challenging market.
In 2009, Charles “Chach” Curtis joined Draker Labs as its new CEO. Curtis restructured every aspect of the business in a dynamic stream of change producing commensurate growth at every turn. Curtis expanded product and service offerings, broadened the customer base to include global energy developers like Johnson Controls, Chevron Energy Solutions, ConEdison Development, BP Solar, and Siemens Energy Technologies, and increased Draker’s staff from 8 to 47 employees.
In addition, Curtis raised more than $5.5 million to support the company’s rapid growth: $3.5 million of new private equity capital; $525,000 of state and federal debt financing from the Vermont Economic Development Authority and ARRA; and a $1.5 million credit facility. Under the leadership of Chach Curtis, Draker Labs posted two consecutive years of more than 250% revenue growth and is projecting another year of triple-digit growth in 2012. The company is currently delivering products and services to the largest solar project ever built in Canada.
As a former renewable energy developer himself, Curtis understood well the needs of Draker customers. Propelling the company’s rapid growth were several key insights, including the creation of tiered product and service offerings at escalating price/value points for each segment; expanding the company’s focus on selling value-added software services; anticipating the growth in large, utility scale solar power plants and championing Draker’s design of monitoring solutions to meet the requirements of these more complex utility-scale projects.
Further, Curtis realized customers are not adequately trained to understand Draker’s sophisticated performance analysis tools. With this in mind, he led the development of a network operations center to monitor, interpret, troubleshoot and recommend solutions to customers. The operations center also represents a new source of revenue and profit that will accelerate the company’s positive earnings. These and other Curtis initiatives have increased Draker’s domestic market share three-fold, from under 10% in 2009 to 25% today.
Under Curtis’s leadership, the company tripled its office space in Vermont to 12,000 sq. ft. and opened a new West Coast office in California. Draker Labs also plans to open a New Jersey office by the end of the year. The company also expects to continue adding to its employee base. The company’s 2012 budget calls for hiring an additional 45 employees, which would bring total staffing to a projected 92 by year-end 2012. Approximately 15 of these new positions are already posted for immediate hire.
Throughout this rapid evolution, Curtis provided exceptional leadership and turned the company around by changing its organizational structure, providing clarity, raising private capital and delivering record growth. In fact, Draker quickly became a leader in Vermont’s “green economy” by providing high-paying, sustainable jobs in the fast-growing renewable energy market. Many of Draker’s recent hires, including top engineers and software developers both locally and from around the country, were attracted by the company’s entrepreneurial culture, rapid growth, market position and prospects for continued success.
According to Curtis, Draker Labs promotes a company culture that encourages and values employee contributions to local communities. Each quarter, Draker sponsors a specific community project, event or charity and encourages employees to contribute time, resources and/or money to support the cause. Past projects/events include: Penguin Plunge (a February swim in Lake Champlain) to raise money for the Special Olympics; food drives to benefit the Chittenden County Emergency Food Shelf, Coats for Kids, Toys for Tots, and the Art Hop, a local event that allows artists to showcase their art. In addition, Curtis also gives employees two days of paid time off per year for volunteer services supporting a charity of their choice.
Curtis himself is an active and respected member of his local and business community and regularly volunteers his time to serve on local boards, mentor new entrepreneurs, and coach ski programs for kids. He is also a regular financial contributor to numerous state and national environmental organizations and children’s advocacy groups.
Mr. Curtis will compete for the national title at National Small Business Week ceremonies in Washington, D.C. May20 -22, 2012. Mr. Curtis will be locally honored by the U.S. Small Business Administration on June 14th at a ceremony presented by Vermont Business Magazine in the Shelburne Farms Coach Barn, Shelburne, Vermont.
The June 14th Vermont Small Business Award celebration will also honor the following winners of the 2012 Small Business Awards:
Financial Services Champion
Vermont Economic Development Authority
Jo Bradley, CEO on behalf of the VEDA Team
Small Business Exporter
Joel Melnick, President, Nathaniel Group, Inc.
Home-Based Business Champion
Simeon Geigel, Small Business Development Specialist, CVOEO Micro Business Development Program
Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Small Business
James Mount and Karen Mount, Owners, Westaff
Women In Business Champion
Sarah S. Spencer, Founder/President, Got Clicks?
Andrew Boutin, General Manager, Pellergy, LLC
Vermont Community/Rural Lender
Passumpsic Savings Bank
Bob Bishop, Executive Vice President on behalf of the Passumpsic Team
St, Johnsbury, Vermont
Vermont Special Award for Disaster Assistance
Linda Rossi, Associate State Director, Vermont Small Business Development Center