by Emily Kaminsky
Sarah DeFelice, a 26-year-old native of Northfield who now resides in Montpelier, lights up with enthusiasm as she describes what will soon be Montpelier’s newest business on Main Street. Named after her great-grandmother and the road she grew up on, Bailey Road will offer a great shopping experience for women searching for professional clothing at accessible prices.
“My mission is to create a shopping experience that allows the professional woman to walk into an oversized, completely stylish closet with her own personal shopper. That’s the image I’m going for,” she said. The store, located at 44 Main Street, is entering the final phase of renovations. The community is invited to celebrate with DeFelice at her store’s grand opening on April 12.
DeFelice traces her entrepreneurial spirit back to the third grade when she sold friendship bracelets, to college, when as a Freshman she ran a painting company for a year. DeFelice graduated from the University of Vermont in 2010 with an economics and art history degree, worked for Banana Republic where she honed her retail management and customer service skills, and then tried her hand at the nine-to-five desk job routine.
When that failed to satisfy, she left Vermont for adventure sailing around the Penobscot Bay on the Maine Windjammer. After two cold winters on the Maine coast, she returned home and found a job with Adorn, a women’s clothing store in Montpelier that recently closed.
“This was a great job that combined that need for creativity and the business drive that I had been looking for in my last few jobs,” she said. “With Adorn’s closing, I was losing a job that I loved and starting the job search all over again.”
The job search was frustrating and disappointing. “I wasn’t able to find a job that fit who I was,” she said. “Looking through the job list, it felt like I would just be settling, that I would be going job to job, never finding anything that was my passion,” she said.
It was at that point that DeFelice began to seriously consider a friend’s suggestion to open up her own women’s clothing store. “Being able to create your own business and have the entrepreneurial spirit is something that you can’t make go away. Before I knew it, the job search had completely stopped, and I was launched with a business plan,” she said.
Knowing she needed advice and financing to make her dream a reality, DeFelice sought assistance from an advisor at the Vermont Small Business Development Center who then referred her to Community Capital of Vermont for financing.
“I had the entrepreneurial spirit, and I had a great business plan and good credit. But what I don’t have is a house or land to call my own. A traditional bank wouldn’t even approve a loan. Community Capital creates another way for entrepreneurs like me to start up. They are able to look at the merits of my business plan, the industry and the market in Montpelier,” said DeFelice.
Martin Hahn, executive director at Community Capital for the last three years, agrees. He describes Community Capital as a lender of opportunity (as opposed to a “lender of last resort”) that helps entrepreneurs who might not otherwise qualify for a loan elsewhere get started or grow their business. “Community Capital is able to look at all aspects of business, not just collateral. We are able to balance other factors to make a loan work. So, there are a lot of reasons to say yes to Sarah and Bailey Road,” he said.
Community Capital of Vermont is a statewide, nonprofit organization that helps small businesses and lower-income entrepreneurs to prosper through the provision of flexible business financing. Seventy-five percent of their loans are made to entrepreneurs like Sarah who are starting a business, with the remainder going to existing businesses.
“We offer products that are flexible to meet a variety of needs that a business has to start or grow,” said Hahn. Community Capital offers loans as small as $1,000 and as large as $100,000. Loans are generally fully amortized with interest rates between 7 percent to 11 percent, depending upon the risk of the loan. Loans to agricultural businesses are offered at a two percent discount. They finance a wide variety of business expenses, including working capital, equipment, inventory, leasehold improvement and refinance of business debt.
Community Capital works with a variety of entrepreneurs in many different sectors. Hahn proudly points to many local Main Street businesses that have flourished with Community Capital’s support, including Kismet, Capital Kitchen, Next Chapter Bookstore, Party Central and Ladder 1 Grill. “And, we have recently made a commitment to a new deli that will open up across the street from Barre City Place,” said Hahn. First launched locally in 1995 under the auspices of Central Vermont Community Action Council, Community Capital grew to cover three counties of central Vermont, and then statewide after acquiring Vermont Job Start, a fund appropriated by the state of Vermont to support low-income entrepreneurs. In 2013, Community Capital gained access to additional capital to lend by becoming a certified SBA Microlending Intermediary.
As DeFelice can attest, applying for a loan requires time, commitment and organization. It helped that the staff at Community Capital made the loan process accessible and friendly. Hahn underscores this point “We are committed to making the lending process as friendly and interactive and responsive as someone would expect from anyone else they are going to for their business,” he said.
DeFelice invites the community to visit Bailey Road’s Grand Opening on April 12. Hahn encourages anyone interested in starting or growing their business to stop by their office at 107 North Main Street in downtown Barre, call them at 802-479-0167 or visit CommunityCapitalVT.org.