Woman-owned businesses on the rise in Bennington County
BENNINGTON -- Two Bennington County moms who recently started small businesses make up two of Vermont's estimated 22,200 women-owned firms. Victoria Barrows of Dorset and Jaime Lane of Bennington recently started their own businesses with a bit of creativity and ingenuity.
Barrows is a registered nurse in skin care at Northshire Medical Clinic. As a resident of the green mountain state, single mother of three and a dog-owner, she came in contact with ticks on a regular basis.
"I saw so many people who are affected by ticks," Barrows said. "I couldn't find anything that worked," which is when she formulated her own product: Green Mountain Tick Repellent, made from essential oils and cedar wood.
"When I started talking to people I gave it to, they said I really should be selling it," she said.
In 2011, Barrows started going into local Manchester businesses to see if they would carry her product. After she drummed up enough interest, she started bottling the repellent in quantity. The Vermont Women's Business Center gave Barrows some input on her website and to generate some business strategies and ideas.
"It's nice to have that resource in the state," Barrows said. "This wasn't something I ever planned on doing. I just feel that it's a product that needs to be out there, and I'm glad I was able to do it."
Barrows now employs a business partner, Glenn Gunther, and spends most of her weekends making repellant and bottling it. The repellant is now on some store shelves in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, California and Virginia.
Barrows said she gave a friend of hers inspiration to start selling the cupcakes she makes. "The more people see the initiative of women starting their own businesses, I think the more incentive there is for other women to do the same," she said.
A mother of two boys, Lane saw it fit to open her own childrens consignment shop in October 2012 to help other parents afford the things children grow out of. Her store, "Here We Grow," 414 Main St., sells secondhand merchandize for infants and children on consignment from the previous owners.
With the help of Brian DeClue at the Vermont Small Business Development Center, Lane was able to put together a plan and acquire a loan.
"I have kind of always wanted to own my own business, and this just came up," Lane said. "We don't have anything like this in Bennington County except for the Good Will and a lot of my returning customers are glad I am here."
Lane runs the shop by herself after having moved from job to job in the past. When items are sold, she keeps checks for consignors for 40 percent of the money the item sold for. The store keeps 60 percent.
"Business has been good. I can't complain. I've been busier every month," Lane said. "I have a facebook page that I update every day, when I get new things in or if I have a sale."
Barrows' and Lane's new businesses account for a small part of Vermont's 30.4 percent increase in the number of women-owned firms since 1997. Nationally, there has been a 67.8 percent increase in the number of women-owned firms in the same time lapse according to the fourth annual American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Business Report.
At least nationally, women-owned firms are growing at a more substantial rate than in any other demographic according to American Express OPEN Research Advisor Julie Weeks. "What typically drives business growth is population trends and overall economic vitality of a state," Weeks said.
The 22,200 women-owned firms in Vermont employ an estimated 13,300 people in addition to their owners, and can be attributed roughly $1.9 billion in combined annual revenue. The report finds Vermont ranked 47 out of 50 states for the growth in the number of women-owned firms in the past 17 years.
There are many reasons that might contribute to Vermont lagging behind in this kind of growth according to VWBC Director Laura Lind-Blum. Unlike some other states, Vermont does not have specific incentives for women to start businesses. But also, "when you look at the clout of women-owned firms versus Men-owned firms, (the lack of growth) might be more about Vermont's business climate in general," said Lind-Blum.
The report defines a woman-owned firm as a private business that has at least 51 percent female ownership and must reach a certain criteria for how much annual revenue businesses report. Lind-Blum said that women may define success differently and may not even be considered in the report.
"Many women carry a more organic sense of success," said Lind-Blum. "The idea of how much money they want to make is the means to their end rather than the end in itself."
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