A woman’s clothing store located on Main Street in Montpelier has been opened for about a year and its owner is only 27 years old.
Sarah DeFelice started Bailey Road, named after her grandparents’ farm in Northfield Vt., because she wanted something to call her own and felt she had the experience to do so.
Although only in her mid-20s, she had spent many years learning about retail and clothing while working at both a national chain and an independently-owned store. However, it wasn’t until she spent two summers on a boat did she learn about the hard work needed to prepare her for being a small business owner.
While attending the University of Vermont, DeFelice worked at Banana Republic learning about sales and customer service. It wasn’t long before she became a top salesperson, selling more than $200,000 worth of clothes a year. After graduating from UVM, she was asked to stay and become a manager. During that time she honed her marketing and visual merchandising skills.
But after a while, DeFelice realized she wanted more adventure in her life and wanted to travel. She soon found herself working on a boat off the coast of Maine.
“There I learned the definition of hard work. There I learned 14 hour work days are not going to kill me. There I learned it takes a strong woman to work in a male dominated industry,” she said. “I learned when you combine a passion and a job you are happy. Yet something made me want a home base, something to call my own and something that was not a tiny bunk next to a galley and below deck. That’s when I came back to Vermont.”
Upon returning home, she worked part-time at a boutique that was closing at the end of the year. She knew it was temporary, so she started looking for a job. From her job experience, she knew she wanted her new career to involve creativity, numbers and customer interaction. But that proved to be easier said than done.
“Here I was ready to make a commitment and nothing seemed interesting nor exciting, so I wish the boutique I was working at would stay open little while longer. There I was designing, increasing sales and building customer relations,” she said. “My three things, so I ended up spending all of my time researching what it would take to run my own boutique.”
She spent time researching downtown Montpelier’s tourist statistics and seasonal shopping figures. Researching only took her so far. If she wanted to pursue entrepreneurship, she would need guidance. She sought the assistance of the Vermont Small Business Development Center.
VtSBDC provides no-cost, confidential business advising and low-cost training services to all small businesses in Vermont.
“This is a wonderful resource for entrepreneurs and for all Vermonters. It’s a free resource for people like me who need just a little help. They give you a business advisor who walks you through creating a business plan, negotiating tips for a commercial lease, and a packet for projecting your financial needs,” she said.
DeFelice did not have much to her name. She had little savings, a car and student loan debt. She went to a traditional lender and the result was not positive.
“I handed them my packet, they skipped right through my well thought out business plan, and jumped right to my net worth. It turned out my meager savings account and Ford Focus were nowhere near what I needed to open a business,” said DeFelice.
After being turned down for a traditional loan, she then met with Community Capital of Vermont, an SBA microlender. The Microloan Program allows the SBA to provide funds to specially designated intermediary lenders, such as Community Capital of Vermont. Intermediary lenders then use those funds to make loans up to $50,000 to help small businesses start and expand. Community Capital of Vermont is the top microlender throughout New England.
“They sat down with me and this was a completely different meeting,” said DeFelice. “They went page by page over my hard work. They talked about marketing strategy and my ideal clientele. I was able to explain to them why Bailey Road would be successful. When they got to my net worth, my heart fell because I thought it be the same result, but they worked with me. I got a loan and opened Bailey Road.”
DeFelice feels taking Bailey Road from a dream to a reality was the hardest part of all.
“When I’m working long hours while my friends are enjoying long weekends, it can be very stressful. However, Bailey Road is by far the most rewarding and empowering decision I have ever made.”