Small Business Week

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Kingdom Chamber new member 2018-02-14 at 7.49.33 PMNORTHEAST KINGDOM - The United States Small Business Administration has declared that from April 29th to May 5th, it be National Small Business Week. With over thirty million small businesses across the nation, this week was designated to raise awareness of the role small businesses have in making communities a vibrant place to work and live.

According to the US Small Business Administration, there are approximately 78,000 small businesses in Vermont that account for nearly 99% of all businesses in the state. The Northeast Kingdom Chamber of Commerce believes there are about 1600 small businesses in our area.

Darcie McCann, Executive Director of the Northeast Kingdom Chamber of Commerce, likes to treat every week like National Small Business Week. "In Vermont, a small business is really small. If you look on bigger areas, small can be 50 to 100 employees and that's big where we come from. But they're huge because two-thirds the expansion that comes from businesses comes from existing businesses."

One of the goals of the Northeast Kingdom Chamber of Commerce is to help businesses grow. "If you look at some of the businesses up in the industrial park they came from starting something out at their home or a much smaller operation and over time it expanded. So they [small businesses] are really extremely crucial," said McCann.

To help small businesses grow and even continue from one owner to the next, the Northeast Kingdom Chamber of Commerce has created an online business resource guide. "It not only looks at people starting a business, but relocating a business, expanding a business, and selling a business. We don't want people to retire and just close down their business," McCann explained.

According to the Small Business Administration, Vermont small businesses account for about 60% of employment throughout Vermont. Businesses with fewer than 100 employees hold the largest share of small business employment across the state. Those small businesses may make up large parts of Vermont's employment, but they are not immune to the struggles businesses face from the ever-changing economy.

"They do face challenges, a lot of it is they don't have a safety net. The corporates, they've got extra resources, capital expansion, research and development that small businesses don't," said McCann.

Even when the economy is going well and businesses are doing fine they may face new challenges passed by the Legislature. McCann said, "So it is really difficult for them and that's why we are working to make it easier for them, but the state has to do that as well."

One local small business, The Lyndonville Bagel Depot, is the perfect example of how important small businesses are, but also how challenging it can be to own one.

Bagel Depot is a staple in downtown Lyndon, and is often a stop for tourists visiting the area. Ralph Aussiker, known better as Chip, is co-owner with his wife Wanda. Originally an auto parts salesman for thirty years, Wanda was a longtime employee under the previous owners.

When the previous owners were ready to sell they went to the Aussikers first and they're glad they did. "It's a lot of hard work, it's very rewarding because especially when you get the support of the community, but it's a lot of work," Chip explained.

They sell anywhere from 200 to 500 bagels every day and Chip thinks that's because the community knows the work they put into their business, "I think they appreciate the hard work that we put into making our product. We do make everything here from scratch. Most all of our customers know that. I think they do appreciate the effort that we put in.

Despite being a popular spot in town for bagel and breakfast sandwich lovers, Bagel Depot still suffers the realities of ever changing market and competitive prices. "The biggest challenge is being able to keep the price, especially here in the Northeast Kingdom, keeping the price reasonable; but still being able to make a living out of it."

With nearly 78,000 small businesses in Vermont, about 1600 in the Northeast Kingdom, it can be a labor of love. National Small Business week occurs once a year to help focus on the accomplishments of small business owners. However, here in the Northeast Kingdom communities celebrate their small businesses every day.