As a recent college graduate, Sarah DeFelice was committed to a career that fulfilled both her passion for fashion and her love for life in the Green Mountain State. But as she researched the local job market, few opportunities matched her criteria for happiness.
“In short, my motivation to starting my own was that my dream job didn’t exist unless I created myself,” DeFelice said. And that’s exactly what she did.
Earlier this year, the 26-year-old fashion maven opened the Bailey Road boutique at 44 Main Street in Montpelier. The store offers elevated clothing, handbags and jewelry at accessible prices.
“We are dedicated to helping our customers achieve both professionally and personally,” Defelice said. “Whether you are on the hunt for that knock ‘em dead outfit, want help updating your wardrobe or are just looking for some retail therapy, Bailey Road can be your personalized fashion expert every step of the way.”
But long before DeFelice could make her dream become a reality, she encountered many challenges along the way. First and foremost, having little financial history and assets, DeFelice struggled to prove her business was viable to lenders. “One of the hardest parts of starting a small business as a young entrepreneur is that most traditional lending opportunities look only at the numbers and not your business plan,” she said.
DeFelice was turned down initially for a business loan and knew she needed help with both funding and the details around opening a business in Vermont. “There are lots of dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s when opening up a business,” she said. “Knowing what forms you need to fill out, what contracts should be looked over by a lawyer, knowing the timeline of getting things done. That was tricky.”
DeFelice wanted a neutral source of information and sought out Vermont Small Business Development Center Area Advisor Charley Ininger. “I was looking for someone who was not emotionally involved in my dream to give it to me straight. To ask me the right questions and give me the hard facts,” she said.
Ininger was more than up to the task, DeFelice said, and quickly went to work critiquing her business plan and offering alternative lending sources to consider. “Charley was amazing,” she said. “My first meeting with him felt like Shark Tank. I was grilled with questions of why I wanted to start down the path of entrepreneurship … I wanted the hard questions and I got them.”
Ininger offered advice on bettering her business plan, creating a timeline for business launch, mapped out to do items, including what items lenders and landlords would be looking for in an applicant, among other things. After being turned down for her business loan, Ininger recommended alternative lending sources. “If it wasn’t for Charley, I would have gotten lost after being turned down by the bank for the loan,” DeFelice said.
Eventually, DeFelice successfully funded her business launch. But the pair didn’t stop there and put plans in place to ensure the business was successful after the doors opened.
“One of the most helpful tools for Bailey Road is the financial spreadsheet that was created specifically for my business,” DeFelice said. “I live and breathe by this spreadsheet … being able to look ahead and plan down to the penny how much I will make each month is a wonderful challenge and planning tool.”
All that detailed planning and preparation has proved invaluable as Bailey Road looks to a bright future. “I am very proud to say that the last meeting I had with Charley we had to redo this spreadsheet because Bailey Road’s first year had blown it out of the water,” DeFelice said.