Strolling of the Heifers opens business 'hatchery'

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BRATTLEBORO >> Entrepreneurship plays a vital role in the growth of our national and local economy. But growing a business is hard work and the survival rate of start-up and early stage businesses is less than 20 percent.

The Strolling of the Heifers' new business hatchery, Windham Grows, is committed to increasing the likelihood of success by providing the mentorship, resources and support local entrepreneurs need to take their business to the next level. Envisioned, funded and launched by the Strolling of the Heifers in less than a year, the hatchery is central to the organization's mission of strengthening the food and farm economy.

"Strolling of the Heifers wants Southern Vermont to remain a great place to live," said Jim Verzino, Director, and Entrepreneur-in-Residence. "We can't do that without thriving companies and a great entrepreneurial ecosystem. That's why Strolling of the Heifers Windham Grows is investing in the most promising businesses opportunities in the region."

With regular on-site mentoring by experienced entrepreneurs, investors and subject matter experts, the program isn't for the casual entrepreneur. It's for those committed to doing the work needed to grow their businesses.

In exchange for their time and commitment, each participant has the opportunity to work one-on-one with entrepreneurs-in-residence to develop and execute a specific, personalized business growth plan.

Windham Grows two entrepreneurs-in-residence, Jim Verzino, and Cairn Cross, are committed to taking the businesses they work with to the next level.

"They aren't just going to connect you with a financing source, distributor or IT consultant," said Orly Munzing, Executive Director of the Strolling of the Heifers. "They are going to partner with you to set specific goals and get you the expertise you need to assure execution."

The program is open to eligible businesses that have: a product or service that can be expanded and sold beyond Windham county; at least one founding partner working full time in the business; adequate time and spousal or family support; and produce a product or service that food or agricultural related.

Fully funded with in-kind services and $310,000 in grants from the US Department of Economic Development, US Department of Agriculture, Windham County Economic Development Program (Vermont Yankee settlement funding), and Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Board, the program is completely free to those accepted.

To provide each cluster with the specific attention they need, each Windham Grows cohort is limited to 10 to 12 entrepreneurial businesses. Applications for upcoming cohorts are being accepted on a rolling basis at www.strollingoftheheifers.com/wg.

While the first cohort session starts in October, the official launch of the program will be celebrated by Bernie Sanders and other state representatives at the Robert H. Gibson River Garden in December. Aspiring entrepreneurs and the public are encouraged to attend. Event details will be posted on the Strolling of the Heifers website once available.


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