By PHYL NEWBECK
This past April, Kristopher and Sarah Kerr Larson took a big step and purchased Otter Creek Awnings in Williston.
Kris had worked for the company for five years but before they bought the company, Sarah had never worked in retail. Today, the Charlotte couple is enjoying running a business together.
“One of the best parts of our new partnership is that we are both able to work together towards the same goal of owning and operating a successful small business,” Kris said, noting that conversely, the worst part is that they probably work too hard because they bring their work home with them.
Kris, 39, started his career in sales with Country Home Products. After a three-year stint designing and selling solar hot water systems, he returned to sales five years ago at Otter Creek, a local company that sells and installs awnings across Vermont, upstate New York and western New Hampshire. After three years, he became part of sales management and began considering and discussing with the previous owner purchasing the company. “Sarah and I made the decision after some long nights and conversation,” he said. “We thought it was something we’d like to do together.”
Sarah, 36, was working in administration at UVM Medical Center, first in human resources and then in radiation and anesthesiology, and liked the idea of owning a business.
“I thought it was a wonderful idea and a great opportunity,” she said. “Otter Creek has been around since 1976 and has a wonderful reputation in the community. We knew it was a viable company. Kris said it had to be a team effort so I agreed we should go for it.”
Today, Kris holds the title of president and Sarah is chief financial officer.
“I make most of the business decisions,” Kris explains, “but Sarah is running the financial piece.”
The Larsons are happy they were able to keep every employee at Otter Creek, which helped as the business transitioned ownership. They have a total of 13 employees, plus some seasonal help. Vice President Rene Paquette has been with Otter Creek Awnings for almost four decades and Office Manager Jennifer Smith has been there for more than 20 years. “We’re not making major changes,” Kris said. “We’re just working towards continued success.”
Kris and Sarah were both born and raised in Charlotte, Sarah fifth generation while Kris is third generation. They met when they were introduced by a mutual friend. This spring they purchased a few acres of Kris’ family’s farm and built a new home on Lake Road which they share with their two boxers: 10-year-old Vinnie and a 4-year-old Stella. Both are part of a long line of rescue boxers the couple has adopted from Northeastern Boxer Rescue.
Sarah noted that in some ways she and Kris are opposites, so working together allows them to balance each other out.
“I’m quicker to make decisions and react,” Kris said, “while Sarah is more likely to dial things down a notch, think it through and make sure we’re making the right decision.”
The two work at different ends of the building so they have their own work space. “You can call it a challenge,” Kris said of the partnership, “but we think of it as a benefit because we can work outside the office as well as inside to solve problems.”