Executive Director & Founder, Monique Priestley, joined Sarah Waring of The Vermont Community Foundation and Bill Sayre of WDEV during Vermont Council on Rural Development’s 2nd Annual Vermont Leadership Summit. Listen here.

Executive Director & Founder, Monique Priestley, had the honor and privilege of speaking at this year’s 2nd Annual Vermont Leadership Summit (at 38:50 in video below), put on by the Vermont Council on Rural Development. Transcript of Monique’s contribution to the opening “spark stories” here:

This weekend I volunteered as a mentor for this incredible cultural entrepreneurship program that spends a week at Galusha Hill Farm in Topsham. It is hands down the most impressive program that I have ever seen in action. One of the most surprising aspects is that among amazing individuals that are transforming their cities and towns, they all have some degree of imposter syndrome.

I feel imposter syndrome deeply every day. I am someone who will show up, dive into the work, ask questions, and figure things out along the way. In many ways, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but I love the challenge of figuring it out – especially when it impacts others. I feel failure when I don’t anticipate every little thing… some may just call that learning. I am a learner that goes all in.

In late 2016, our Main Street was suffering. One of our key businesses, a department store, had gone out of business. Across the street, a global oil company bought out a family business that spanned the block and said they’d keep everything the same – and then left town as soon as the papers were signed. I was on 15 or so boards at the time and every single meeting was discussing what we were going to do. My remote full-time job was in Seattle and I was starting to view it as an escape route.

I went to one of our Business Association socials. The depression was palpable. Previously, I had told a few close friends of an idea I had to create a multipurpose space. Most people smiled, but blew it off. I myself considered it a retirement goal. A mentor of mine came up to me at the gathering and said, “I think it’s time to share your idea.” There was instant buzz, more drinks were ordered, and we sat around talking excitedly.

I went straight to my friend Sam’s house. I didn’t have any money and didn’t have any idea how to pull this off. He said, “You just helped me start a nonprofit – you know that’s a possibility.” I decided I would see if there was any interest in a shared space, what people might pay, and what they might use it for. I left Sam’s, sent out a survey, and Googled “How to Start a Nonprofit”. In 48 hours, I received 85 responses of people who had a critical need for what I was suggesting. I met with each of them one-by-one which led to further coffee dates and dinner with their friends and family. By the time we opened our doors, I had talked to 300 or so people and based everything from furniture to floor plans on those conversations.

I spent the first half of last year raising $100,000 in startup funds. I received a lot of help and had an amazing board to advise me. I had people reviewing documents, listening to my pitch, making email introductions, donating money, giving advice. People like Paul Costello and Ted Brady opened doors and knocked down walls that I had been banging my head against for months. Vermont Community Foundation, Jack & Dorothy Byrne, building owners Vin and Angela Wendell, and many others made investments that made everything possible. I realized very quickly that every effort I had ever volunteered for, every networking dinner I had ever gone to, and everyone in my circle had opened up an entire world in the State of Vermont that I hadn’t dreamt was there. And more than anything, it made me feel incredibly proud to be a Vermonter – to live among strong people who can really pull together.

We opened in mid October as a community-based coworking, maker, conference, event, and gallery space. Our year-end goals were to have 25 monthly members and to serve 1000 people. In 10 months we are at 33 members and have served 5000 people. We have hosted coworkers, kids yoga, Renaissance workshops, business programming, meetups, a senate hearing, youth social justice dinners, and any number of other things.

The Space has taken directions I never would have expected. It has transformed lives. The coolest thing about The Space is that I get people from town as well as all over VT, NH, and MA visiting, calling, and emailing, figuring out how they can create a similar space, open a small business, or pursue any number of random life goals. They saw energy and it awakened something in them.

Every one of our small towns needs that energy. They need someone taking charge and changing the status quo. Current leadership needs to mentor, listen to new ideas, and when the time comes, nudge people to step up. We need to invest in creativity, collaboration, and an atmosphere the encourages someone to take a chance. There are so many efforts that happen behind the scenes in small towns and if that energy and spirit dies, the Vermont we know will cease to exist. There is power in community, in small town grit, and in good old New Englander ingenuity. We have so much potential to do amazing things.

Every single person in this room is a part of that. I know it doesn’t always feel that way. It sometimes gets lonely to care. To show up. But hang in there, even in those moments where you feel like you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. At some critical moment, all the dots will connect and all of your work will make sense. Your potential for impact is very real.

#ScaleHere Platform Addresses Barriers to Starting and Scaling a Business in Vermont

Burlington, VT​ ​(May 23, 2019)​ – The Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET)​ today announced new partnerships with five innovation hubs to boost startups, innovation and localized economic development throughout Vermont. The ​#ScaleHere platform accelerates business growth throughout the state by sharing the business resources aggregated at VCET to companies at other non-profit innovation centers outside of the greater Burlington area.

“Economic development used to be here ​or​ there, but today, it’s here ​and​ there,” said David Bradbury, VCET President. “The #ScaleHere platform shares expert advice, business mentoring and deeply discounted technology services to members in these innovation centers that can exceed $100,000 in support per company.”

In addition to VCET’s three innovation hubs in Burlington and Middlebury, the #ScaleHere partners launching today include: ​Do North Coworking, Lyndonville;​ ​The Space on Main, Bradford​; ​The Mint, Rutland;​ ​Black River Innovation Campus (BRIC), Springfield​; and ​The Lightning Jar, Bennington​.

As part of the #ScaleHere platform, eligible members in these innovation hubs now have free access to a larger network of resources to help them start and grow their businesses. Platform members can connect with more than 130 business mentors, get one-on-one coaching and consulting sessions, and connect to third-party technology and business resources. The #ScaleHere platform also brings valuable financial incentives such as SaaS partner program discounts, up to $100k in cloud credits, and $20k in fee-free payment processing.

“The #ScaleHere platform is another example of how Vermonters are working together to reverse our declining workforce trends,” said Michael Schirling, Vermont Secretary of Commerce. “Our rural communities and city centers coming together to share resources, lower costs, connect with area colleges, and ultimately aid our state’s entrepreneurs will help the companies of tomorrow take root and grow in Vermont.”

Since launching at the University of Vermont, VCET has earned national recognition for its impacts advancing Vermont’s technology ecosystem through strategic curation of people, places and capital, leading to business growth and investments in the local economy. Now, through #ScaleHere, entrepreneurs can thrive more broadly in any part of Vermont, inspiring business growth and innovation throughout the state. The Vermont Technology Council has provided support for this initiative along with VCET’s other key partners such as U.S. Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Middlebury College, The University of Vermont, Consolidated Communications, Champlain College, the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Norwich University.

What #ScaleHere Members Have to Say:

“The Space On Main is stoked! The #ScaleHere partnership with VCET is a game-changer, both in serving current members as well as attracting members who are feeling a lack of entrepreneurial support in East Central Vermont. Nearly all of our applicants have expressed wanting to start or grow businesses, and partnerships like this will help them take the next step.” – Monique Priestley, president and founder, The Space on Main

“VCET has been a valuable asset to our growth by helping to connect us with the right human capital to solve various business development problems. Knowing we have advocates wanting us to succeed helps to lower the stress of being a tech entrepreneur.” – Jason Shafer, PhD, president and CEO of Northview Weather LLC at Do North Coworking

“Holy s$#t, this is awesome.” – Anonymous business owner, The Space on Main

“Having access to the programs available through VCET (Stripe and AWS Startup Discount) has been a huge help in getting Pool Shark H2O running so we can continue to help keep swimming pool water clean and safe for everyone. Many of the programs offering assistance to startup companies are only available, or accessible, in the Burlington area and don’t reach Southern Vermont. The extension of VCET benefits has helped us take advantage of technology we otherwise many not have been able to afford.” – Scott M Trafton, president and co-founder, Pool Shark H2O, The Lightning Jar

“We’re excited about the possibilities that #ScaleHere offers to existing and potential entrepreneurs in our region. Members of The Lightning Jar are already taking advantage of these benefits, reducing the risk to entrepreneurs and increasing their chances of success. At Global-Z we were also able to tap into the #ScaleHere network, which connected us with subject matter experts and quickly allowed us to expand our network. This is a tremendous tool for startups and existing businesses in Vermont looking to grow.” – Dimitri Garder, CEO of Global-Z, and Director of The Lightning Jar

“In our rural communities it can be a challenge for a startup business to find the types of resources offered through #ScaleHere. Member businesses at Do North Coworking are already taking advantage of the technology discounts and access to experts. Industry-specific mentors provide deep insights into the nuances of a sector and, for a startup, this knowledge can be the difference between success and failure.” – Evan Carlson, entrepreneur in residence, Do North Coworking

(Download a PDF of the Press Release)

About VCET
Advancing innovation and entrepreneurship, the non-profit Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET) provides expert business mentoring, technology professional networking, three coworking and accelerator facilities in Middlebury and Burlington, innovation programs, and early stage venture capital. VCET manages the Vermont Seed Capital Fund, LP, a revolving $5 million venture capital investment fund. VCET was named #11 globally in 2013 by the UBI Index and in 2018 received an IMPACT Award from InBIA. Visit ​www.vcet.co​, follow ​@VCET​ and listen to ​#StartHere podcast​. Media Contact: Alison Miley, AVPR alison@avprvt.com

#ScaleHere Partners

In addition to all my usual stuff… intermittent fasting, high fat, low carb, gluten-free, grain-free, I’ve been completely dairy-free for a few weeks and really think it’s helping. Just like everything else, I thought it would be really hard, but it’s been pretty fun. Like everything else, there is a ton of information online with lots of recipes for alternatives. I picked up some vegan butter at the store and then decided I’d try to make my own. It’s super easy, makes quite a bit, and tastes super close to dairy butter. Plus, it’s kind of fun diving into vegan recipes if only to find decent dairy alternatives.

• 1.5 cups melted neutral, refined coconut oil
• 1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used hemp.)
• 1/4 cup light olive oil (I used almond oil.)
• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
• 2 teaspoons liquid sunflower lecithin
• 1 teaspoon raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and process at medium speed for 1 minute. Pour into a container. Refrigerate. (Keeps 3-4 weeks.)

I’ve tried this a bunch of different ways and blended a few online recipes together. So far, this is my favorite combination. It’s gluten-free, low carb/keto/paleo, and could easily be made nut-free and/or vegan (see notes below). I’m pretty excited to take this base and create varieties by adding random protein and fiber powders, herbs, nut flours, mushroom powders, spices, extracts, etc. that are currently in my cabinets.

• 2 cups almonds/cashews/pistachios (I use sliced almonds.)
• 1 cup sunflower seeds
• 1 cup pumpkin seeds
• 1 cup flax seed meal
• 1 cup toasted coconut flakes (unsweetened)
• 1/3 cup coconut sugar (I replaced this with mini vegan chocolate chips.)
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup cacao nibs
• 1 cup hemp seeds
• Cover with cinnamon
• Vanilla extract (To liking. I use a lot.)

1. Preheat oven to 300F and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Run nuts through a food processor if whole.
3. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until thoroughly combined.
4. Spread mixture evenly on prepared baking sheet and bake 20 minutes.
5. Remove and let cool.

• To make this nut free, you could leave out the nuts or replace with more seeds.
• To make this vegan, you could replace the eggs with a blend of chia seeds and water, applesauce, or mashed banana.

8oz Cream Cheese
1/2 Cup Butter (Salted)
1/2 Cup Peanut Butter
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
1/8 Cup Erythitol
1 Serving (16 chips) Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Chips (These are my go to because I really don’t like alternative sweeteners, but you could easily use keto chocolate chips for even less carbs. I’ll try this with Lindt 90% Cocoa Supreme Dark bits next time.)


Mix ingredients together well. (I used a mixer.) Refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove and form into balls. Keep stored in a refrigerated air tight container.

Macros: (per ball, 20 count) 124 calories, 12g fat, 3g carbs, 2g protein

Note: I’ve tried this a few different times. The first version didn’t include flax or the egg, but I think they came out much better with the additions.

2/3 cup chia seeds
2/3 cup sunflower seeds or hemp seeds
2/3 cup pumpkin seeds
2/3 cup sesame seeds
2/3 cup flax meal
1 egg
1 cup water
Garlic Powder (and/or other spices as desired – I use Za’atar)
Sea Salt


Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pepita seeds, and sesame seeds.

Add the water, spices, and salt. Stir with a spatula until combined. Allow the mixture to sit for a couple of minutes until the chia seeds absorb the water. After the 2-minute rest, when you stir the mixture, you shouldn’t see a pool of water on the bottom of the bowl.

With the spatula (and a hand, if necessary), spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet in two small rectangles, about 12×7 inches each and 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle additional salt on top.

Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully flip each rectangle with a spatula. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes more, until lightly golden around the edges. Watch closely near the end to make sure they don’t burn. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes on the pan and then break the rectangles into crackers and let cool completely on the pan. Store in an airtight container or jar on the counter for up to 2 weeks. You can also freeze the crackers in freezer bags for up to 1 month.

*If the crackers soften while storing (this can happen in humid environments), toast them in the oven on a baking sheet at 300ºF for 5 to 7 minutes. After cooling, this should return them to their former crispness!

From Amazon: “The Tao Teh King (Tao Te Ching) forms the fundamental core of modern Taoist philosophy and has informed the beliefs and mode of life of the people of China for 2500 years. For all those who seek peace, contentment, harmony and balance in life, the Tao Teh King is an indispensable resource. Lao Tse’s words speak directly to the heart with simple, direct and profound wisdom addressing the core principles of the art of living well.”

From Amazon: “Conventional medical science on the Chinese art of Tai Chi now shows what Tai Chi masters have known for centuries: regular practice leads to more vigor and flexibility, better balance and mobility, and a sense of well-being. Cutting-edge research from Harvard Medical School also supports the long-standing claims that Tai Chi also has a beneficial impact on the health of the heart, bones, nerves and muscles, immune system, and the mind. This research provides fascinating insight into the underlying physiological mechanisms that explain how Tai Chi actually works.

Dr. Peter M. Wayne, a longtime Tai Chi teacher and a researcher at Harvard Medical School, developed and tested protocols similar to the simplified program he includes in this book, which is suited to people of all ages, and can be done in just a few minutes a day.”

Mark Sisson is a genius. I was so-so on fat bombs before. Typically the recipes taste like blandly flavored coconut oil and butter. Sisson’s from his book, The Keto Reset Diet, are actually an amazing dessert replacement, in addition to being the perfect fat bombs to boost your fat macro. Here are my favorites so far (slightly altered):

Base Bomb
1/3 cup coconut butter
1/3 cup coconut oil

Mine: Lemon-Limeade
Base Bomb
1/4 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons lemon zest
3 tablespoons lime juice
Total Calories 1230, Fat 140, Carbs 20, Protein 10 (divide by however many you make)

Cinnamon Roll
Base Bomb
2 tablespoons almond butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
Total Calories 1430, Fat 140, Carbs 30, Protein 10 (divide by however many you make)

Mine: Sunbursts
Base Bomb
2 tablespoons sunflower butter
2 teaspoons raw cacao

Mine: Dairy-Free Strawberries & Cream
Base Bomb
2 medium strawberries (diced)
2 teaspoons vanilla