Success Story: Vermont
When March rolls around in Vermont’s Green Mountains, many large-scale sugar makers are already hard at work tapping trees and boiling sap into the sweet syrup the state’s famous sugar maples provide. But there’s also a cadre of small-scale home producers who focus on providing a gallon or two for their families and friends.
Those small-scale backyard operations did not go unnoticed by husband and wife team Justin McCabe and Kate Whelley McCabe, who themselves had struggled with finding an efficient way for backyard sugar makers to produce affordable syrup for their families.
“Our young family could not find an affordable, fun way to sugar on a small scale, given the products on the market – and lack thereof,” Whelley McCabe said. This led them to open the Vermont Evaporator Company, a Montpelier based business that makes small-scale maple sugar evaporators for backyard sugar makers. Priced at $825, the evaporators are far more affordable than many of the professional models seen throughout Vermont and beyond.
But before the small manufacturing company could get off the ground, there were many hurdles to cross. “We are not experienced in starting a business,” Whelley McCabe said, citing challenges such as estimating cost of equipment, as well as building expenses, among other things. The fledgling company soon contacted Vermont Small Business Development Center Area Advisor Charley Ininger for assistance with their business start-up needs.
Whelley said they quickly went to work on the start-up concerns with a “calm, data based” approach to decision making. She described the process as “very positive.” “It gave us confidence,” she said.
“There is absolutely no reason not to check in with VtSBDC if you are starting out or in a jam,” Whelley McCabe said.