Bergamot + Amor started as a two-person Vermont business, thoughtfully handcrafting bags and gear for the maker, outdoor enthusiast, explorer, and functional minimalist. Amanda Farrell and Peter Shangraw met during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and become partners soon thereafter.Their initial goal was to just toy with the leather and make Amanda a purse. After a single post to social media, interest in their bags snowballed. Bergamot + Amor was launched. Within the first six months, the two had sold 1,000 bags in Vermont, 30 states, and three countries. Making one leather bag for Amanda had turned into a profitable business. Their fast growth has presented challenges in terms of staffing, production, and physical space.
"We're juggling a lot right now," Amanda said. "We've gone from a company of two to a company of eight, plus seasonal staff during the Big E, America's Premier Exposition and the world's only multi-state fair taking place in West Springfield, Massachusetts. Our biggest challenges are keeping up with production and finding skilled employees." "The fact that we both had businesses before starting this together definitely gave us an advantage of being able to manage many tasks, from answering the phones to ordering materials," Peter said. Their approach is to divide and conquer; Amanda runs the gallery and handles sales and marketing, while Peter manages the workshop.
"Our VtSBDC business advisor's direction and pointed knowledge have kept us grounded, organized, and focused on our goals."
To take on the challenges of fast growth, keeping up with production and finding and training new employees, Amanda and Peter began working with Scott Holson, a business advisor from the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC). "Scott's advising has kept us focused and feeling calm during some of the most rapid growth spurts we've had to date," Amanda said. "His direction and pointed knowledge have kept us grounded, organized, and truly focused on our goals. We couldn't be where we are without him."
Scott also guided Amanda and Peter through the purchase process of two buildings in town-an abandoned hardware store that they converted into a workshop, and a brick building on Route 14 in Williamstown, Vermont, which houses a showroom and espresso bar where visitors can purchase their products along with a selection of highly curated handmade items by 150 other artisans.
The couple credit Scott with advising them on all the aspects of business planning, while they are able to stay true to their mission, and vision for their community. The company is community focused, donating a substantial portion of their profits to local charities and families in need. Peter and Amanda are invested in seeing their town thrive and were instrumental in helping their neighbors during the summer of 2023 floods. Last year, they donated more than $30,000 of their first-year profits to local charities and community members who needed help during the pandemic.
Jacqueline de Achaval, co-owner of Paprika Empanadas in Waterbury, Vermont, had a dream to start a business and share her passion for healthy and delicious food. After growing up in Argentina where she attended culinary school, Jackie moved to Vermont in 2019 and worked as a sous chef before embarking on her entrepreneurial journey. Now, she and her wife Jen McCabe are dedicated to sharing their love and passion for creating food that is good for both the body and the soul. Their connection to culture and culinary expertise has resulted in a business that sells a diverse variety of handmade empanadas. Jackie and Jen held their first pop up at Waterbury's Stowe Street Café in the fall of 2021. Their empanadas, created with locally grown and produced ingredients, were an instant hit. Since then, they have sold at many pop ups and farmers markets.
The couple's challenges included growing the business, adapting their products to the needs of the community, and transitioning from pop ups to a brick-and-mortar location.
"VtSBDC was extremely helpful in many ways. Charley was always there, responsive to our inquiries or doubts. He helped us structure and label our business in a way where we can see and plan for growth."
To address these challenges, Jackie and Jen reached out to the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) and Business Advisor Charley Ininger for support and guidance. "VtSBDC was extremely helpful in many ways. Charley was always there, responsive to our inquiries or doubts. He helped us structure and label our business in a way where we can see and plan for growth."
Charley advised the clients through a successful loan process, the hiring of two employees, and their expansion journey to secure a brick-and-mortar location in Waterbury, Vermont. He also served as a sounding board as the couple added menu items, increased their social media presence, and expanded their reach to their customers. At each stage, he has assisted Jackie and Jen with figuring out their financials, and determining how much production is required to be profitable.
As a former nursery schoolteacher, it was a class trip to a local goat farm that originally sparked Juliana Danyew’s interest in developing a dairy business of her own. Her goal was to put her 12 acres of land in Orwell, Vermont to use while working from home.
In preparation, Juliana took a job at a local farm helping feed their newborn goats and getting their new creamery up and running. She found she loved the work, and over the next decade developed her cheesemaking skills while learning what it takes to run a successful dairy business.
She was also slowly growing her own herd of goats and collecting stainless steel dairy equipment for an eventual milkhouse and creamery, which were both completed in 2021. Danz Ahn Dairy passed inspection and became a licensed plant later that year. By the spring of 2022, Danyew was making and selling several varieties of cheeses at farmers’ markets and the local coop.
Fast forward to the present, Juliana uses goat milk from her farm, which has grown to include over 50 goats, to make her small batch, hand-crafted cheeses.
The challenge? How to finetune her business strategies, develop a marketing plan, and prepare to grow her business.
"My business advisor Sarah Kearns helped me clearly define the important goals of my business. Redirecting my attention and focus has led to more efficient use of my time, improved marketing, and helped move my business forward."
A year into her business endeavor, a friend encouraged Juliana to contact the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) for advice on taking the next steps.
“My business advisor Sarah Kearns helped me clearly define the important goals of my business,” she said. “As a sole-proprietor, it’s easy for me to get caught-up in some of the many day-to-day tasks. Redirecting my attention and focus has led to more efficient use of my time, improved marketing, and helped move my business forward.”
Sarah worked with Juliana to prepare her financials for a loan application and guided her through the step-by-step process of developing a business plan. To provide Juliana with additional resources, Sarah consulted with another advisor on the VtSBDC team who specializes in agriculture business, and connected Juliana with ag-related organizations throughout the state of Vermont who could help take her business to the next level.
From the marketing standpoint, Sarah advised Juliana on how to develop a website, assigning the VtSBDC student intern to provide assistance as a summer project. Sarah also worked with the client to secure a story about her business in Vermont Business Magazine.
Today, Danz Ahn Dairy consists of a thriving herd of 50 Saanen/LaMancha-cross goats. Milk from the herd is hand-crafted into small batch artisanal fresh and aged farmstead cheeses.
Juliana focuses on the traditional, artisanal aspects of cheesemaking, sustainable agriculture, and education. The variety of cheeses includes fresh chévre, bloomy rind cheeses, and several alpine style aged cow milk cheeses.
The business is profitable and on a path toward growth. Juliana recently hired a bookkeeper and a relief milker so that she can focus on other aspects of the business, like getting her product on the shelf. She continues to work with her VtSBDC business advisor for check ins on cash flow, smart growth, and marketing ideas.
The client credits VtSBDC with assisting with many aspects of marketing her business including creating a sell sheet that provides buyers with clear information and easy ordering. Offering input on the label and logo has resulted in a professional market presentation that retains Danz Ahn Dairy’s artisanal identity.
These efforts have moved Juliana’s business forward in its professionalism, increasing her confidence along the way.
At this writing, Danz Ahn Dairy cheeses are available for purchase at Danz Ahn Farm, as well as the Middlebury Coop, City Market, and Vergennes and Shelburne farmers’ markets in Vermont.