Ten years ago, the Loan Fund launched our first technical assistance programming in the form of Project SUCCESS, which provided specialized resources and services to support early care & learning entrepreneurs. But since then, “things have evolved quite a bit,” says Elena Gustavson, VCLF’s Director of Business Resources at the now “evolved,” re-named and expanded Business Resource Center, located within VCLF’s new School Street offices. The BRC now provides resources, trainings and assistance to all VCLF borrowers, at no cost to them. “We’ve been building more tools and tweaking our processes quite a bit the last couple of years,” Elena says. “We’re building a library of assets, and getting deep on how we fit into the landscape of lending and assistance in Vermont.”

Adapting to business during COVID-19, the BRC quickly pivoted to virtual trainings, added staff and equipment, always strategizing to serve emerging needs and communities.

Services currently include assistance with personal finance; staffing; business planning, succession planning;; cybersecurity; marketing; social media and more, available in-person and online through multiple platforms.

Doors are opening, literally, as the BRC prepares to open its new Learning Lab, an advanced-tech classroom will enable BRC staff to conduct hybrid (both/either in-person and online) workshops, panels, and ‘Small Bite Wednesdays,’ an ongoing webinar series tackling top-of-mind topics for Vermont entrepreneurs. The Learning Lab’s centerpiece is the Promethean Board, an interactive media teaching tool resembling a high-tech blackboard. “It allows for a rich learning experience for everyone, both virtually and in the classroom,” Elena promises.

With the arrival of Ben Green as Business Navigator last fall, the BRC boosted capacity for outreach to Vermont’s communities of color, and New American Vermonters seeking loans and related resources. Ben’s position, funded in part by VCLF partner Mascoma Bank, has set goals to increase access to a diverse pool of borrowers through VCLF’s new Justice Forward Fund.

Ben provides direct support to Vermont’s communities of color and new Americans who may be unfamiliar with the loan process, financial jargon and the complex requirements borrowing can entail. “My goal is to demystify the lending process, so a loan can actually feel achievable,” Ben says.

Ben has focused on building relationships with partnering organizations including Association of Africans Living in Vermont (AALV), which helps new Americans from all parts of the world gain independence in their new communities with workforce interpreter services and more; the Center for an Agricultural Economy, Let’s Grow Kids and others.

There’s even more good news: in May, Max Krauss joins the BRC team as Business Advisor, adding new expertise in agriculture, technology and financial services. “We’re thrilled to have Max come aboard to round out our advisory team,” says Elena. From its early days of limited capacity, Elena now estimates the BRC can now serve as many as 50 clients at a time, based on varying needs and demands.

“We know what the BRC can do for our borrowers. With our track record of success and the resources and supports we’ve designed and evolved over our recent history,” says Elena, “we’re confident that we’re doing everything we can to make sure that our borrowers have the tools they need to succeed.”

Ten years ago, the Loan Fund launched our first technical assistance programming in the form of Project SUCCESS, which provided specialized resources and services to support early care & learning entrepreneurs. But since then, “things have evolved quite a bit,” says Elena Gustavson, VCLF’s Director of Business Resources at the now “evolved,” re-named and expanded Business Resource Center, located within VCLF’s new School Street offices. The BRC now provides resources, trainings and assistance to all VCLF borrowers, at no cost to them. “We’ve been building more tools and tweaking our processes quite a bit the last couple of years,” Elena says. “We’re building a library of assets, and getting deep on how we fit into the landscape of lending and assistance in Vermont.”

Adapting to business during COVID-19, the BRC quickly pivoted to virtual trainings, added staff and equipment, always strategizing to serve emerging needs and communities.

Services currently include assistance with personal finance; staffing; business planning, succession planning;; cybersecurity; marketing; social media and more, available in-person and online through multiple platforms.

Doors are opening, literally, as the BRC prepares to open its new Learning Lab, an advanced-tech classroom will enable BRC staff to conduct hybrid (both/either in-person and online) workshops, panels, and ‘Small Bite Wednesdays,’ an ongoing webinar series tackling top-of-mind topics for Vermont entrepreneurs. The Learning Lab’s centerpiece is the Promethean Board, an interactive media teaching tool resembling a high-tech blackboard. “It allows for a rich learning experience for everyone, both virtually and in the classroom,” Elena promises.

With the arrival of Ben Green as Business Navigator last fall, the BRC boosted capacity for outreach to Vermont’s communities of color, and New American Vermonters seeking loans and related resources. Ben’s position, funded in part by VCLF partner Mascoma Bank, has set goals to increase access to a diverse pool of borrowers through VCLF’s new Justice Forward Fund.

Ben provides direct support to Vermont’s communities of color and new Americans who may be unfamiliar with the loan process, financial jargon and the complex requirements borrowing can entail. “My goal is to demystify the lending process, so a loan can actually feel achievable,” Ben says.

Ben has focused on building relationships with partnering organizations including Association of Africans Living in Vermont (AALV), which helps new Americans from all parts of the world gain independence in their new communities with workforce interpreter services and more; the Center for an Agricultural Economy, Let’s Grow Kids and others.

There’s even more good news: in May, Max Krauss joins the BRC team as Business Advisor, adding new expertise in agriculture, technology and financial services. “We’re thrilled to have Max come aboard to round out our advisory team,” says Elena. From its early days of limited capacity, Elena now estimates the BRC can now serve as many as 50 clients at a time, based on varying needs and demands.

“We know what the BRC can do for our borrowers. With our track record of success and the resources and supports we’ve designed and evolved over our recent history,” says Elena, “we’re confident that we’re doing everything we can to make sure that our borrowers have the tools they need to succeed.”

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