Vermont owned forever

Jan Demers

By Jan Demers

“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 is a small-business owner with an emphasis on craftsmanship and realizing other people’s 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,’ 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 floor plan measuring 5,000 square feet and has expanded to 28,000 square feet. The result is an annual output of 900,000 gallons of premium beer a year. And now they have taken on another corporate structure. As of Feb. 2017, their company is 100% employee-owned.

That is economic development at its finest.

The Micro Business Development Program (MBDP) provides free business technical assistance and access to capital for Vermonters with low income. MBDP is nestled in the work of the CVOEO’s Financial Futures Program along with 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 there were 12 new businesses created. There were 21 business expansions and 17 business enhancements. $104,336 in capital was leveraged within 32 capital transactions. The program had 149 participants with 11.6 fulltime 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. H480 was introduced in the House by Representative Jean O’Sullivan with 19 other sponsors signing on. S135 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.”

Vermont businesses created and owned forever for all the world to see.

Jan F. Demers is the Executive Director of CVOEO. You can reach her at 802-862-2771 ext. 740, or email

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