SWANTON – By sheer chance or genuine bravery, almost every small shop on Swanton’s Merchant’s Row is owned or operated by a woman.
To name a few, Swanton is home to Scampers, Cody’s, Bees on Broadway, Flowers by Jenny, Midnite Sew What, Karen’s Hair Studio, Vision Nutrition, Divine Treasures, Swanton House of Pizza, Champlain Insurance and Vermont Precision Tools.
While not all of the companies are directly owned by women or are small businesses like Precision Tools, Swanton pushes the average statistically higher than the state of Vermont.
According to a study by the Vermont Commission on Women, 32% of the state’s businesses are owned by women.
The same study found that while the number of women-owned businesses is growing faster than male-owned businesses, women-owned businesses are still smaller and have lower annual revenues.
Angela Carr, who opened Divine Treasures with her husband Chad Carr in early October 2022, said it’s not easy for a woman to open or run a business, especially considering history.
In the past, she said, women were expected to be exclusively housewives or to focus on caring for their husbands while he was the breadwinner. Carr said the pressure in modern society has eased, but there is still more expected of a woman to put her dreams or passions on hold to take care of the kids at home.
Carr ran a registered daycare for 20 years when she had her own children and grandchildren, but now that they are self-employed she has finally had the time to start her own business. Natasha Carr, her daughter, also has her own photography business with a studio and office in the basement of Divine Treasures.
“I think women need to put their passions aside more than men do,” Carr said. “Typically, when men are building a business, their backbone is their spouse who takes care of the family. We will be their rock while men pursue their dreams.”
Carr said she doesn’t want to take away from men in business or be sexist, but that societal pressures to raise children and take care of the home are much greater on women and disadvantage women in business.
Darci Benoit, the owner of Bees on Broadway in Swanton, said the most important aspect of running a business is not just customer support, but family support as well.
“As a woman, as a mother and as a wife, owning a business is impossible without the support of your family,” Benoit told Messenger via email. “It’s not a 9-5 life either. Your thoughts are always on your business and what’s next. It’s a passion that consumes a lot of your energy and you need family to understand that.”
Benoit said she hopes her daughter, who has learned how to deal with customers and operate a cash register, will learn life skills that not all children can learn.
She also said that some of the biggest supporters of her business have been the other women in town, saying about 85% of her customers are women.
“Women support other women,” Benoit said. “I have my business close to home because many of these women have become my friends. I would never have met so many if I hadn’t kept my business in Swanton.”
Molly Lambert, a member of the Swanton Enhancement Project, which aims to create a more vibrant village center, said it’s great to see people getting involved in the community to make it a more welcoming place.
“[Swanton] It’s a beautiful city and village, and we have a lot of smart people who really care about not only their businesses but their communities,” Lambert said.
Lambert is pleased to see the diversity of businesses in the area and those who operate them. She highlighted Monica Greene of Vermont Precision Tools and Deborah Winters of Firetech Sprinkler Corp. directs and is co-chair of the Enhancement Project, along with a number of other directors.
“I think what’s more important than people’s gender is their motivation to run their businesses in a way that benefits their communities,” Lambert said.
In Vermont, the This Way Up project tracks the number of women-owned businesses via survey. The project was started by the Vermont Women’s Fund to better understand the power and potential of women to contribute to the state’s economy.
Business owners, CEOs or directors are encouraged to register their business run by a woman, and prospective business owners can use it to connect with other professionals and learn from the resources on the site.
“We want to give a voice and visibility to the women who are driving our communities across our state, whether their businesses are small or large, brick and mortar or digital, sole proprietorships or large employers,” the website reads.
The site also has a map feature to help users find women-owned businesses in their communities.
Saturday November 26th is the state-approved “Small Business Saturday” which aims to attract more crowds to smaller, locally owned businesses rather than the larger retailers popular on Black Friday.
On Saturday, December 10th, Vision Nutrition will be hosting a Christmas Vendor Event in Swanton from 9am to 1pm