In the News 

From "Farm bill expands Vt. small business lending; Officials expect $1M VEDA loan money will go quickly"

Feb 11, 2014 3:23:45 AM

WATERBURY, Vt. —Danielle Nichols was looking for a career change in 2011 and dreamed of opening her own business.

She wanted to call it Cork, her twist on a wine bar and market concept, and found a promising spot available in Waterbury.

"I didn't know if it would exactly happen, or if I could pull it off," said Nichols, a UVM graduate and Stowe native who spent a decade in California coaching ski racers in her previous life.

The problem was money-- as in -- finding a lender.

But for the $50,000, five-year loan secured from the Vermont Economic Development Authority, she says, Cork would probably still be a dream.

"That was, definitely, crucial," Nichols said. No commercial bank in town would agree to a loan to open her unproven, fledgling business.

Two and a half years later, Nichols has seven employees. The business is situated in a charming brick building in the heart of Waterbury.

"It's been great. We're growing steadily every year," she said.

VEDA hopes to replicate examples like Cork after learning it will receive another $1 million from the new U.S. Farm Bill signed Friday by President Barack Obama.

The funding comes on top of $1 million VEDA received last September.

"It can be anything from a car repair shop to a manufacturing company," said Jo Bradley, VEDA's executive director, at a news conference announcing the new funding.

"The spectrum is very broad," she added, though loans require a detailed business plan that includes some new hiring.

Nichols got approved, Bradley said, because "she had her ducks in a row, she'd figured it out, she'd done her projections."

Now, Cork is part of a renaissance in its central Vermont community, already home to several craft beer houses and restaurants.

"It makes a big difference," Village Trustee President Skip Flanders said of the new businesses opening in town. "We're still recovering from (Tropical Storm) Irene. There's vacant space in town we're working to get rented."

Nichols said VEDA's 4 percent interest rate was another key to her success. Alternative financing or private investors would have charged rates between 8 percent and 10 percent, she said.

Bradley isn't sure how many new loans she can make with the Farm Bill allocation, as loan sizes can vary widely up to the maximum of $350,000. "But I wouldn't wait too long," adding the $1 million received in September is almost all spoken for.

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