An organization working to advance economic opportunities for women and girls in Vermont aims to increase awareness of women-owned businesses, during the busiest time of year for most retailers and shoppers.
The philanthropy-focused Vermont Women’s Fund, a component fund of the Vermont Community Foundation, has issued what it is calling the Shop Woman-Owned Challenge. It asks shoppers to seek out and support businesses owned by women.
“I think people like to be intentional with their shopping and their dollars,” said Meg Smith, the director of the Vermont Women’s Fund. “We are just making it easier for people who want to follow those values.”
The holiday shopping challenge is part of the fund’s This Way Up initiative, which was born out of ongoing research into just how many businesses statewide are owned by women — info Smith noted was previously unknown.
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“Our data has already shown that 96% of women-owned businesses contribute to nonprofits, support charities, they support schools, and of the 2,700 businesses that have signed up, that’s $30 million,” Sm ith said describing what is supported when people seek out women-owned businesses. “So there’s real economic value.”
Smith said the work of the Vermont Women’s Fund to level the economic playing field remains vital, as data shows women face greater barriers than men in accessing capital to start and grow businesses. Those challenges and others are also referenced by the National Women’s Business Council, a nonpartisan federal advisory committee.
The research process for This Way Up involved the creation of an interactive map, which users can check out during the holiday shopping challenge to find women-owned businesses statewide, including La Bella Derma in Winooski. La Bella Derma has its own skin care product line and offers treatments like facials and lash extensions.
“We give back to a lot of different charities,” noted La Bella Derma’s owner, Chelsea Russell, in response to a question from NECN & NBC10 Boston about what patrons are supporting when they choose to spend money with her business. “Also, I employ four women, so they’re supporting our families. And we’re small business shoppers ourselves, so we’re sharing throughout the community.”
People can use the map outside of the traditional holiday shopping season, too, the Vermont Women’s Fund emphasized — pointing out it also has listings for a wide range of businesses and services that are not specific to holiday gifting.
“It’s a great initiative,” said Elizabeth Bluemle, the owner of the Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, which appears on the map. “If we are supporting one another, and we’re supporting traditionally underrepresented businesses and populations, that does lift the whole community. It just does, and it helps the economy.”
The Shop Woman-Owned Challenge runs November 30 through December 7, but organizers have pledged to keep focusing year-round on improving awareness of economic contributions of women who own businesses.