This Way UP Feature Fridays: January
On Fridays, the Vermont Women's Fund profiles Vermont women entrepreneurs who are the foundation of our economy and communities. Follow the Women's Fund social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see these profiles posted each week.
Alex Hilliard, VT AthletaFit, Poultney
Who is someone who pushes herself and those around her to be their very best? That's Alex Hilliard of VT AthletaFit in Poultney. She trains clients of all genders and ages. “Folks generally come to work with me to get stronger, for their personal development and self-care, to prevent and manage disease and injuries, and to stay in shape for good health and longevity into old age.” She actively models a healthy lifestyle by competing in obstacle course races and trail running—for which she is an award-winning competitor. “Even though I 'walk the walk'", she says, “I run a studio that is very inclusive and accepting and is a nurturing environment, which enables my clients to explore growing into their ideal selves.”
Alex represents Vermonters’ strength and persistence in very personal ways too. “I think most people would be surprised that I came from a disadvantaged working-class background, was a first-generation college student, and that I identify as BIPOC and LGBTQ. I hope that will inspire folks to take a shot at pursuing their dreams, even if they’re worried that the odds are stacked against them.”
Follow Alex’s fitness journey and her business at: vtathletafit.com.
Sarah DeGray, REV Indoor Cycling, Burlington
Sarah DeGray founded REV out of her inspiration to combine her passions of music and movement through indoor cycling. She started her business to foster a community that she quickly built and that has supported her over the past decade through 4 location changes and the impact of COVID.
"I have luckily been able to hang on thanks to this amazing community of supportive people that we call ‘REVers’. I am so grateful that for 10 years I have had folks moving with me—and my business does not exist without them, or without you!"
Watch Sarah’s This Way UP video and find out more about REV at: revindoor.com
Linda Benway, Casablanca Motel and Catamount Tours, Manchester Center
Serial entrepreneurs Linda Benway and her business partner Diane Poulliot’s philosophy is to shoot for the moon (a moniker they used in naming their LLC). Owning and operating a unique lodging property along with a travel and touring business means that they do everything from housekeeping to minor repairs, and office work to serving as driver and tour operator and providing guide services.
Linda says that she fell in love with the 3-acres of historic cabins and saw the potential to bring them back to life as an eclectic retreat and now a Certified Wildlife Habitat®. While it isn’t a “huge” operation, she has made it work with a “get things done” and “pay as you go” approach. As she explains, “I love being my own boss! I love the challenge of the day-to-day operations because hospitality is a fickle business and one must constantly shift and adapt to the needs and trends of the traveling public. I loved taking our motel from obscurity to a place that is now recognized by Yankee Magazine as "Best Retro Escape."
Their business is intertwined with their community as shown by their excursions through trails and woodlands, working with other local businesses like the Orvis School, and even driving tractors in annual parades. “Our focus is to promote not only ourselves but our town. I was the President of the Shires of Vermont and through that we worked at the AAA travel shows, the Big E, and several trade and travel shows alongside the State of Vermont Department of Tourism. When COVID forced us to close our motel doors, we morphed our second business, Catamount Tours, and found ways to bring transportation safely to our town and bring more tourism to our area.”
Linda expressed that having women run a small business has surprised many folks. She explains, “We have had our challenges, but we hope to be mentors to other women (and men) who find themselves in their mid-life having to change careers and focus.”
There are stories like this all across the state. As more and more people take the This Way UP survey we're learning about the determination and power that fuels these businesses.
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If you own your own business—no matter the size and no matter full time, part time, or side hustle—we want to hear from you! Please take the This Way UP survey to get counted for the hard work that you are doing in Vermont.
If you know women-owned businesses, please encourage them to take the survey or reach out to us at email@example.com.