Micro business program helps develop young firms

“I have consistently doubled my income for the last three years.  This year my gross is so far past my wildest expectations of what I thought I could do!”
Johannes Ziegler, owner of JZ Carpentry LLC, began working with CVOEO’s Micro Business Program in 2011. He had a dream of owning his own business and he worked on that dream until it became a reality. Johannes’ small business emphasizes craftsmanship, and helping people realize their dreams for perfecting their homes. That is economic development at its finest.
Bill Cherry was strong on budgets, projections and engineering. He felt less secure dealing with sales and marketing. “I am naturally resistant to what I think of as ‘marketing,’” he said, “but Gillian Franks of CVOEO’s Micro Business Development Program discussed the importance of having an accurate portrayal of one’s company so customers could understand the business they were supporting.”
Bill Cherry started as a brew master and followed his dream. He founded Switchback Brewing, which has grown from one employee to 30. He began with a 5,000-square-foot floor plan and has expanded to 28,000 square feet. As a result, his annual output has reached 900,000 gallons of premium beer a year. As of February, 2017 their company is 100 percent employee owned. That is economic development at its finest.
The Micro Business Development Program (MBDP) provides low-income Vermonters interested in starting up a business with free technical assistance and access to capital. MBDP is part of CVOEO’s Financial Futures Program, which includes programs addressing credit building and repair, Individual Development Accounts, financial capability group training, and individual counseling and mentoring. MBDP follows the steps of thinking through business ideas: looking at readiness, developing essential business skills, creating a plan, connecting to resources, assessing credit and applying for business funding. All accomplished last year by one staff person: Simeon Geigel.
And the results? Last year 12 new businesses were created. There were 21 business expansions and 17 business enhancements. $104,336 in capital was leveraged within 32 capital transactions. 149 individuals participated in the program with 11.6 full time jobs created. All at the average cost of $3,600 per job created.
Economic development comes one idea successfully implemented at a time. It comes with intense conversation and wise council. It starts with a dream and proceeds at a risk.
Included in Vermont’s 2017 legislative session are two bills to increase the work of the MBDP. H.480 was introduced in the House by Representative Jean O’Sullivan with 19 other sponsors signing on. S.135 was sponsored by the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Commerce and Housing Affairs. Successful passage of this legislation would mean more dreams fulfilled, more independence established and more economic development.
Bill Cherry of Switchback Brewing said, “We have taken on the slogan “Vermont Owned Forever!” to express our desire to always be a Vermont company.  Not a bad marketing slogan since it just reflects our reality.” In other words, Vermont businesses created and owned forever for all the world to see.

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