VCLF's Business Resource Center: Growing to Meet the Need

Along with every loan, VCLF commits to providing free-of-charge business advisory services to borrowers: tools, resources and consulting services to help build their successful enterprises. Now, with a major expansion of the Loan Fund’s Business Resource Center, those resources will reach further than ever before.

“We’ve been ramping up our capacity, to provide services for more clients,” says the Loan Fund’s Elena Gustavson, recently promoted to lead the BRC as Director of Business Resources. “Help with payroll and systems, marketing, sales, financial and business management, for all VCLF borrowers, including past, present and potential clients,” Elena says, pausing to take a breath. “We’re doing a lot, and I see us doing even more.”

Since the devastating arrival of COVID-19, the struggle to maintain business and economic activity has driven demand for assistance from the Business Resource Center as VCLF’s borrower businesses have evolved and adapted to survive. And that’s on top of the team’s “regular” work, meeting with existing and potential borrowers, free of charge, to ready them for loans, strengthen their operations and help ensure sustainability.

VCLF’s advisory services originally targeted Early Care & Learning program borrowers needing assistance with financial management and other basic skills. “Ten years ago, our advisory services had a more limited reach and scope, but we came to see that we could offer much more,” says the Loan Fund’s Executive Director Will Belongia. “With the pandemic hitting Vermont communities so hard, it was critical, at this time, to ‘bulk up’ the BRC,” he adds.

Elena, who joined VCLF in 2017, brings a lot to the table: her resume includes stints as restaurant owner, institutional kitchen manger, business manager, CSA manager, bookkeeper and online retail manager. After serving three years as the BRC’s Business Advisor, Elena was promoted to her current post as Director of Business Resources, in December of 2020.

“Elena possesses a deep understanding of our borrowers’ business needs. Having held positions at several small businesses and nonprofits in the food and farm sector, she’s walked in their shoes,” says Belongia.



In March, VCLF and the BRC welcomed Corey Hennessey as Business Advisor. With her background in business consulting, Corey helps clients and potential borrowers through needs assessments, financial modeling, developing business plans, and more. “I also like to put an emphasis on creating and fostering relationships, and support networks within the small business community,” Corey says.

Ben Green joined in April as Business Navigator, with a background in financial services. The position was partially funded by Mascoma Bank, and created to increase outreach and lending to Vermont businesses and organizations owned and led by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Vermonters and New Americans. Ben’s work, building partnerships with these communities, and with other organizations serving them, will ultimately help the Loan Fund reach deeper to develop financial products and assistance services better designed to meet the needs of BIPOC Vermonters.

Both Corey and Ben have been working with VCLF Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) borrowers, helping with applications and loan forgiveness. Most significantly, they’ve spent a lot of time working with small business owners and sole proprietors taking part in Champlain Valley Office for Economic Opportunity’s Financial Empowerment for New Americans program.

“When I first started at VCLF, I worked with just one or two clients at a time, trying to get their businesses back on track and prioritizing healthy business management,” Elena says. “Now, the BRC team is serving forty clients at once,” she says, with trainings, workshops, group and one-on-one consultations, all conducted online since the pandemic. The focus is on clients’ long-term growth. “We’re committed to reaching a whole new group of Vermonters we haven’t been able to serve before.”

Learn more about VCLF's Business Resource Center here.

VCLF's Business Resource Center: Growing to Meet the Need

Along with every loan, VCLF commits to providing free-of-charge business advisory services to borrowers: tools, resources and consulting services to help build their successful enterprises. Now, with a major expansion of the Loan Fund’s Business Resource Center, those resources will reach further than ever before.

“We’ve been ramping up our capacity, to provide services for more clients,” says the Loan Fund’s Elena Gustavson, recently promoted to lead the BRC as Director of Business Resources. “Help with payroll and systems, marketing, sales, financial and business management, for all VCLF borrowers, including past, present and potential clients,” Elena says, pausing to take a breath. “We’re doing a lot, and I see us doing even more.”

Since the devastating arrival of COVID-19, the struggle to maintain business and economic activity has driven demand for assistance from the Business Resource Center as VCLF’s borrower businesses have evolved and adapted to survive. And that’s on top of the team’s “regular” work, meeting with existing and potential borrowers, free of charge, to ready them for loans, strengthen their operations and help ensure sustainability.

VCLF’s advisory services originally targeted Early Care & Learning program borrowers needing assistance with financial management and other basic skills. “Ten years ago, our advisory services had a more limited reach and scope, but we came to see that we could offer much more,” says the Loan Fund’s Executive Director Will Belongia. “With the pandemic hitting Vermont communities so hard, it was critical, at this time, to ‘bulk up’ the BRC,” he adds.

Elena, who joined VCLF in 2017, brings a lot to the table: her resume includes stints as restaurant owner, institutional kitchen manger, business manager, CSA manager, bookkeeper and online retail manager. After serving three years as the BRC’s Business Advisor, Elena was promoted to her current post as Director of Business Resources, in December of 2020.

“Elena possesses a deep understanding of our borrowers’ business needs. Having held positions at several small businesses and nonprofits in the food and farm sector, she’s walked in their shoes,” says Belongia.



In March, VCLF and the BRC welcomed Corey Hennessey as Business Advisor. With her background in business consulting, Corey helps clients and potential borrowers through needs assessments, financial modeling, developing business plans, and more. “I also like to put an emphasis on creating and fostering relationships, and support networks within the small business community,” Corey says.

Ben Green joined in April as Business Navigator, with a background in financial services. The position was partially funded by Mascoma Bank, and created to increase outreach and lending to Vermont businesses and organizations owned and led by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Vermonters and New Americans. Ben’s work, building partnerships with these communities, and with other organizations serving them, will ultimately help the Loan Fund reach deeper to develop financial products and assistance services better designed to meet the needs of BIPOC Vermonters.

Both Corey and Ben have been working with VCLF Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) borrowers, helping with applications and loan forgiveness. Most significantly, they’ve spent a lot of time working with small business owners and sole proprietors taking part in Champlain Valley Office for Economic Opportunity’s Financial Empowerment for New Americans program.

“When I first started at VCLF, I worked with just one or two clients at a time, trying to get their businesses back on track and prioritizing healthy business management,” Elena says. “Now, the BRC team is serving forty clients at once,” she says, with trainings, workshops, group and one-on-one consultations, all conducted online since the pandemic. The focus is on clients’ long-term growth. “We’re committed to reaching a whole new group of Vermonters we haven’t been able to serve before.”

Learn more about VCLF's Business Resource Center here.

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