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Dreams Really Do Come true
Tuesday August 22, 2006
By Brian Bauer
by Brian Bauer
During a period of pre-history when the price of gasoline was not necessarily a deterrent, you might have taken a drive just to get away for the day. During that escape you probably remarked to yourself about the beauty of the mountains and hay fields which you passed. Every so often though, you passed a remnant of someone's dream. It might have been a little place to eat which had been by-passed by a major roadway, a shop which had sold Vermont products, a vegetable stand living beyond its usefulness, or, a myriad of other possibilities. These are remnants of small businesses which may or may not have been a success in their time. They were created, planned, and worked at by average people who dared to try to develop a business of their own.
Hundreds of small businesses are created each year and hundreds more do not survive. Many of ones which do survive are created by women and produce a service or product accepted by the marketplace. They create new employment opportunities. They increase our tax bases to help support community efforts. To that point, according to the Small Business Administration, “Women business owners are critically important to the American economy. America's 9.1 million women-owned businesses employ 27.5 million people and contribute $3.6 trillion to the economy”. It was with these facts in mind that I decided to talk with the Cookie Lady about her business experiences. For those of you who do not know, the Cookie Lady is Sue Kanaly.
Sue, a Middlebury resident for a number of years, is from New York State, having lived in both the areas of Ogdensburg and Plattsburgh, while she was growing up. She points her aunt/uncle and grandmother as 'mentors” for her future business. Sue's aunt and uncle ran a bridal shop and her grandmother did wedding cakes. There was also a banquet facility which the extended family operated. These were successful people with successful businesses, so Sue had a head start on the learning curve involved not just with product creation but also with managing, marketing, and financing. Sue's mentor grandmother had 17 grandchildren but Sue was the only one interested in wedding cakes. When she died Sue inherited all of her baking equipment. From the time she was in the 8th. Grade through most of High school, Sue worked in restaurants. At the age of 18 she was the youngest traveling manager for the Wendy's Restaurant Group. After that she managed a bakery.
To sum things up to this point, it is apparent that the “Cookie Lady” was, during this period of time, really doing internships, gaining various experiences, collecting the tools of the trade, and learning the ins and outs of a business she would eventually create, own, and run.
At some point in time, it is told, that her future husband Jim stopped hiking in the Adirondacks long enough to meet and marry Sue. He then said let's have some fun and climb 46 mountains, above 4000 feet of elevation, in the state of New York. Normally, that would have ended the marriage but Sue had great determination and eventually climbed 13 of them, including Cascade Mountain in a driving rainstorm. Today, Sue still loves the outdoors but prefers to “smell the flowers”.
The year 2000 was the time of the “new beginning”. Sue was working a Cafe, in Bristol. One day when all the other help had gone to a funeral, Sue received a phone call from St. Mary's School. Her son had a temperature of over 100 degrees and she could not leave to go and pick him up. As it turned out, she then got sick and could not go back to work for almost a month. It was during this time that Sue decided that she could not be away from her kids. What to do? Asplendid and very successful business dream was about to be born!
Sue was now at a crossroads. She wanted to work but felt a mother's responsibility to her sons Andrew and Nick. She took stock of her past learning experiences and decided to create her own business. She had been involved in all of the necessary facets of the catering business and knew it was something that she not only enjoyed but was good at. Sue loaned herself a $1000.00 and created a small business from her home. Sue knew that making contacts with potential customers was a must. She spent time working with more established caterers such as “Lets Pretend Catering”, in the Burlington area; entering local baking contests; supplying samples as gifts; donating edibles to good causes; and using the old standby, “word of mouth”. Year after year Sue has seen her business grow. She is presently involved in developing a website, has business cards, and is even into mail order. Sue feels quite fortunate to have found a niche which allows balance in her life: family and business.
When asked what she would say to other women looking at the possibility of creating a business of their own, Sue had the following advice:
a. Fill out a personality questionnaire, perhaps from the Small Business Administration, to see if you are suited for a business venture.
b. Self-discipline is a must. You are the boss. Can you discipline yourself to get up each day and take a step forward?
c. Take at least 6 months to plan it out. Look into suppliers, marketing, financing, business entities, insurance, licensing, etc..
d. Avoid starting and growing too fast
e. Spend money very carefully
f. Put together a good Business Plan. It is an absolute necessity
for funding purposes and will give you a long range pathway to follow.
g. Check out the Vermont Women's Business Center at Trinity
**** Add to Sue's list the United States Small Business Administration. The SBA (sba.gov) is a very strong advocate for women entrepreneurs and offers many programs and services to help them succeed.
Sue Kanaly's business “Blue Moon Cookies” can be reached by calling 1-802-388-7735
One of these days when you walk past the downtown office of the Middlebury National Bank let your eyes take in their showcase window. Once a year, Sue puts on a fantastic display of her edible goodies in that window and if you are fortunate you will see that some “dreams” do come true.
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