Success Stories

Ryan McDonald, founder and owner of Finn

Not without adventure. It’s a fitting tagline for the three-year-old Finn, a fly fishing goods manufacturer in South Burlington Vt.  

“A friend of mine says it all the time. I feel it is especially true when it comes to running your own business because this is an adventure. Little things pop up all the time. So much is trial and error, but you have to persevere. It’s perseverance that leads you to success,” said Ryan McDonald, founder and owner of Finn.

Along with his partner Jake Sienkiewycz, the two-man shop makes an array of high quality fly fishing goods, including reel cases, side bags, knife rolls and much more.

Brass, canvass, and leather are woven together to create the Huntington Duffel, Streamer Wallet and the Richmond Tube Roll. Both self-taught sewers, items are mostly made by hand except when demand is high in the spring and the Christmas shopping season some items are outsourced to local manufacturers.  Each finished item has a distinct Finn logo... Read More


Over the course of its twenty-year existence, the growers at Red Wagon Plants in Hinesburg have become experts at producing high quality organic plants and vegetables. But as their business evolved owners knew they needed to focus on more than just agriculture to ensure they could also experience healthy business growth.

“Our business is special because it has grown organically over twenty years,” said Red Wagon Plants owner Julie Rubaud. “We believe in what we do and are known for our high quality standards,” she said, adding that she started the plant business “as a way to augment the income to the vegetable farm in 1996. Since then, the plants eclipsed the vegetables.”

 As the plant portion of the business became more integral to the farm’s success, Rubaud came to realize that monitoring budgets, expenses and other overall bookkeeping tasks were proving increasingly important, as well as challenging. The farm, which grows and sells plants at both retail and... Read More

Tom Stearns

A seed is much like Vermont. It is small but it is powerful.

Whether he is speaking of his business or his seeds, Tom Stearns does so passionately. That passion is one of the many reasons why the Vermont Small Business Person of the Year, is awarded to Stearns, High Mowing Organic Seeds founder and owner.

He is being recognized for growing his company, increasing sales, employee growth and contributing to the local community. A celebration of Stearns and all the 2016 SBA winners took place Thursday, June 16 at the Country Club of Vermont in Waterbury Center.

Each year since 1963, the Small Business Administration’s Vermont District Office has awarded the Small Business Person of the Year. High Mowing Organic Seeds joins the ranks of other previous state winners including as Switchback Brewing Co, Vermont Teddy Bear, and Ben & Jerry’s.

Along with High Mowing Organic Seeds, six other businesses were selected as SBA winners this year:... Read More

AO Glass

Combining art, utility and passion into a viable business can be a serious challenge. Few know that better than Rich Arentzen and Tove Ohlander, owners of AO Glass LLC, a production glass studio in the heart of Burlington’s Pine Street arts district. Still, they decided to tackle that challenge “in order to take a passion and turn it into a sustainable business,” Arentzen said.

But they didn’t have to do it alone. Arentzen and Ohlander looked to Vermont Small Business Development Center Area Advisor Steve Densham “in order to blow glass while making a living,” Arentzen said. The company needed better planning skills and better focus on core business matters and “existential goals,” Arentzen said. They also sought a better understanding of accessing capital, business growth and business life cycle, he said.

The business owners and Densham worked together on these matters and with diligence and time were able to overcome the challenges the practicing the dynamic craft... Read More