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Windham Grows: Farm/Food business hatchery

Windham Grows: Farm/Food business hatchery

Windham Grows: a food and agriculture business hatchery

Strolling of the Heifers is about to launch Windham Grows, a program designed to nurture the next generation of innovative farm and food entrepreneurs in Windham County, Vermont. We anticipate a launch about September 1, 2016. The following is the executive summary description of the project. For further information, please be in touch!

MISSION: In collaboration with state and regional partners, to build the food and agriculture business sector in Windham County by connecting startup and early-stage businesses with critical services, resources and financing.

Windham County, Vermont faces economic challenges resulting not only from the shutdown of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant (which will result in the loss of 600 jobs and a total annual payroll of more than $60 million), but also from longer-term wage stagnation, an aging population, and a lack of new business investment in the area.

12752977894_47331ae4be_zWindham Grows is a “business hatchery” focused on the food and agriculture sector in Windham County, being launched by Strolling of the Heifers to mitigate these negative events and trends by strengthening the area’s food and agriculture sector.

Led by a pair of seasoned entrepreneurs-in-residence, Windham Grows will seek out and develop great business ideas by providing startups and scale-up stage businesses with a custom-tailored package of support services and resources designed to maximize their chances of success.

Windham Grows helps build businesses in a three-stage annual development cycle:

  • Step 1: Discovering opportunities: A program of outreach, workshops and cross-sector networking events designed to surface, evaluate and flesh out ideas for new products, new methods and new markets that represent business opportunities for new and existing businesses in the food and agriculture sector
  • Step 2: Competitive evaluation: A process designed to develop, test and rank business models, plans and financial projections for these opportunities
  • Step 3: Custom-tailored support for growth: Continued support to bring the best of these opportunities to market in a systematic approach, custom tailored for each business, that includes mentoring, physical office, lab or maker space, land, or kitchen space, as appropriate, as well as assistance in gaining access to capital, services including legal, accounting, strategic advice, tech support, and more.

Windham Grows activities will be centered at the Robert H. Gibson River Garden, The Stroll’s headquarters building in the heart of downtown Brattleboro, where 4000 square feet of new space has been developed as offices, collaborative meeting and working space, and a kitchen for research & development work.

Windham Grows is a unique approach to launching and growing businesses, creating jobs, attracting and retaining younger people and leveraging our infrastructure for entrepreneurs. Windham Grows takes advantage of Vermont’s strong food brand and its multiple resources for sustainable food sector development.

Our projections show that with moderate success (8 to 10 new or growing businesses graduating each year from the hatchery, each creating two new jobs per year), over a 10-year period Windham Grows will nurture and build 85 food and agriculture businesses employing nearly 1,000 people with a total annual payroll of more than $30 million, and attract more than $45 million in private investment.

Windham Grows builds on The Stroll’s experience gained during 10 years of operating a regional business planning competition, and in launching a microloan fund for New England farmers. Participants in The Stroll’s business plan competition consistently say that what they learned in the planning process, along with the coaching and the feedback they received, was more important than the prizes themselves. In Windham Grows, we strengthen and extend the competition process in both directions and substitute services, resources and mentorship for cash prizes.

Ultimately, Windham Grows can be expanded into nearby regions in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts in order to affect economic development within the entire Brattleboro laborshed.

Windham Grows

STROLLING OF THE HEIFERS, INC.

THE RIVER GARDEN, 157 MAIN STREET, BRATTLEBORO VT 05354

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Executive Director: Orly Munzing | 802-258-7070 | orly@strollingoftheheifers.com

Photo by USDA, used under Creative Commons License