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.
On May 30, 2019, I had the honor of being recognized as one of Vital Communities’s Heroes & Leaders at their 25th Anniversary celebration. I am not a lover of “the spotlight”, small talk, soirées, or swapping out my jeans, so I was skeptical of how the night would go. Luckily, like usual, my skeptical self was pleasantly surprised. It was a night of familiar faces, new friends, inspiring stories, and a flawless introduction by Sarah Copeland-Hanzas that left me with a greater level of respect, both for Sarah – and myself. I cannot thank Vital Communities, Rob Schultz, or Sarah enough for their support and am very much looking forward to serving this amazing organization. I asked Sarah if she could send me a copy of her speech and have included it below. <3
When Hills 5&10 closed its doors on Main Street in Bradford a few years ago, many of our Main Street shop owners feared it signaled the ultimate demise of our little downtown. But as the phrase goes, every cloud has its silver lining. Our silver lining came in the form of Monique Priestley.
In the years following the closure, I saw Monique in my café almost daily. She would juggle her day job along with meetings with local leaders. She was determined to transform the empty storefront into a 21st century business venture. She persisted in solving the puzzle like a kid with a Rubik’s Cube.
To help you understand Monique, I want to share with you a story, adapted by Erikka Mohssen-Beyk, from a lost poem by an Iranian author Mohammed-Taki Bahar. I’ve added a few pieces to be sure the story truly captures Monique Priestley.
There was a water spring coming out of a stony mountain slope, and this little stream had the dream to become a river and reach the sea to become one with the big ocean.
The spring started to flow down the stony mountain slope, happily jumping over little rocks and having fun. All of a sudden she got stopped by a big rock which was in her way.
Very politely, she asked the rock to give way. The rock said, “Who do you think you are to tell me to give way to you? I did not even jump when the big flood came and washed everything away and now you little stream want me to get out of your way? ”
The spring did not get discouraged by his harsh words and started to dig her way around the rock, it took time and it was hard work, but finally, she was able to carve her way around the big rock and continue her journey.
She had many obstacles on her way, but she was always thinking of a solution and got better and better, along the way she learned a lot. If there was not a straight way she tried around, above, or even to go underneath. When winter came, she settled in, as ice, and in the spring found her power had created another way forward. Sometimes it seemed as if she couldn’t flow anymore and had to stop to get more power again. Over many seasons, with many twists and turns, she finally reached the sea.
I had the chance to scan Monique’s resume to prepare for this event. In order to understand Monique you just need to remember these numbers; three, five and 26. This woman currently holds down three jobs. Now, I have two jobs and that’s about enough to blow my mind some weeks. She’s rocking three jobs. On top of her three jobs we’re going to lay on the number five. She has so many public service and volunteer board positions she has to divide that part of her resume into five different sections. The skeptics among you are saying, “Sure, if I listed every board I’ve ever served on I could get to a place where I need to organize them into categories.” That’s reasonable. But here’s the clincher. Twenty-six. That’s the number of committees, boards and elected positions that are listed on her resume as things she’s presently involved in. Twenty-six! I challenge you to find anyone else in this room who’s rocking community involvement to that extent.
Persistence and avid community involvement are among Monique’s attributes. But I want you all to know that she has WAY more than endless energy and dogged determination. She is the real deal when you look to identify heroes and leaders in our community. She has that awesome combination of hard work ethic, willingness to talk to everyone, humility in the face of resistance, calm in the face of challenges and immunity to the undermining poison of skepticism.
While she might come off as shy, and I know she does not relish the opportunity to make speeches in public, she’s never let that stand in the way of joining a board, volunteering for a project or convening a community of people to solve a common problem.
Monique is more than the silver lining of some mythical cloud, in fact, she is the water. Monique can wear through any barrier you put in her way.
#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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
As Founder & President of The Space On Main, I gave testimony on-site today in support of coworking, makerspaces, broadband, and entrepreneurship at a Vermont Senate Committee On Economic Development, Housing & General Affairs hearing on Rural Economic Development & Innovation. My testimony and full hearing video are below (Matt Dunne starts off the hearing at 1:00:00).
My name is Monique Priestley. I grew up directly across the river in Piermont, NH and then moved to Bradford during high school. I attended UVM and Northern VT University (Lyndon) for my undergraduate degrees and left for 15 months to get a Master of Communication in Digital Media at the University of Washington in Seattle. While in grad school, I worked for a Seattle software company that I continue to work full-time for, remotely, 9 years later. I continue to commute back and forth every few months to catch up with coworkers and to get a dose of an urban environment.
I serve on a number of local, municipal, and state boards including everything from our local health care center, to planning commission, to Chamber of Commerce, to the Vermont Council on Rural Development. This space was a retirement goal of mine, but at 30, our town was losing key businesses and every local meeting was filled with a palpable mixture of depression and desperation – wondering how to attract businesses, professionals, and young people.
You have heard and are going to continue hearing of the need for better access to broadband, a need to push technical education, and a need for better access to affordable and workforce housing. These are critical problems that need to be solved. We think an equally important problem is a lost sense of connection and community. A lack of communication and collaboration. A lost sense of civic responsibility. And a lack of sharing skills and resources. And we believe that coworking and makerspaces can address these problems head on.
Coworking and makerspaces facilitate efficient, affordable, and convenient sharing of resources. The remote worker, the contractor, the freelancer, the entrepreneur, the solopreneur, the working parent with a side-hustle, the traveling consultant. These individuals are not required to have an office space. In rural Vermont, it does not make sense to drop hundreds of dollars a month to drive to a location where they are most likely still going to be working in isolation. But $100/month to work in a shared, professional space where they can meet clients, have access to fast Internet, and have facilitated access to a network of people who can grow their businesses, their skills, the social circle, and their awareness of others in their community? That is game changing. In our handout, you will see that people joined The Space On Main for access to faster Internet access, but more importantly, they joined just to be around other people. They want to be engaged. They want to grow with, learn from, and share with others.
The Space On Main has been open for less than 4 months and already, our members have blown us away. They will tell you that this space saved their lives, their relationships, or their businesses. One member reported invoicing for more earnings in his first month than he has ever invoiced in his career. That same member shared that something as simple as access to a table and whiteboard made his product more professional. And that access to video equipment could enable him to evolve his real-time global reach to automated global reach that would allow him to help more people, make more money, hire staff, and require him to partner with other members to make up for his weaker areas such as marketing. Every single one of our members and many members of the broader community wants to start, evolve, or scale a business, but they need support and a network to do so. And that is what we provide, but it is going to be a struggle to purchase required equipment, make overhead, offer programming, and try to build in salary for a paid employee to manage things.
There are a few keys areas where we believe the state can make huge impact:
1. A more expansive broadband network, which in turn would lower costs. When we priced out fiber a year ago, it was going to be $2200/month, then $1100/month, and is currently $375/month for 50/50 (half of what it should be). After the lease, it is our greatest monthly expense.
2. A remote worker program that markets and matches people with available spaces. Even if you manage to convince a remote worker to come to Vermont and throw a few thousand dollars at them, you are not giving them a community to engage with. They are going to be isolated, in a new environment, with no real investment or connection to Vermont. They are going to feel the disconnection from the professional network they had in the city. Instead, buy them a year at a coworking space. Give that coworking space money to survive and to invest in programming that will allow them to offer professional development and networking opportunities to that worker.
3. Financially support or incentivize business and entrepreurial programming. We recently attended a facilitator training for a business accelerator training at LaunchVT. Ideally, The Space On Main would offer this 9 week program 3 times throughout the year. Each cohort can accommodate up to 16 people. From each, if 4 businesses result and even one stays and hires 10 people, that is 30 new jobs a year. We already have a full waiting list for the first cohort. Once that’s in place, We will expand similar programming to local tech center students. And from there, we will offer in-depth training in coding, accounting, business development, scaling, and more.
And as an additional note after receiving the proposed legislation list, absolutely expand the Downtown program. Receiving state tax credits was a make-or-break moment for this renovation project.
(Matt Dunne starts speaking approximately 1:00:00 in.)
Photo credit for featured image: Matt Dunne
Lawmakers explore potential of co-working spaces for rural development: Senate committee hears testimony on bolstering rural growth around shared work spaces Full article and video reported by Ross Ketschke on MyNBC5 6:25 PM EST Feb 19, 2019: https://www.mynbc5.com/article/lawmakers-explore-potential-of-co-working-spaces-for-rural-development/26416856
BRADFORD, Vt. — Vermont lawmakers are exploring the potential for using co-work spaces as spark plugs for economic development in rural communities.
The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs hosted a hearing with co-work and makers space leaders from around the state in Bradford on Tuesday.
Senators heard testimony from local business leaders, entrepreneurs and directors of communal work spaces on their potential economic impact and ways the state could support growth they can potentially kick-start.
“It’s a place for people who are just moving to towns to know they have a community they can step into,” said Monique Priestley, founder of Bradford’s The Space on Main where the hearing was hosted.
Priestley’s co-working space opened its doors last fall and allows artists and entrepreneurs to rent out work space by the day or month.
The Space on Main, like other co-working or makers spaces, offers an array of tools for startups and artists including internet access and, in some cases, manufacturing equipment for designing product prototypes.
Priestley said the environment of co-working facilities is highly attractive to new business ventures looking to operate in collaborative spaces with other entrepreneurs.
“People see each other and overhear conversations and that’s sparking ideas or ways for them to collaborate with other people,” she said.
Director of the Center on Rural Innovation Matt Dunne said adapting the co-working space models for rural communities in Vermont would need some tweaking from their for-profit focused templates in startup hubs like Boston.
“It takes grassroots activities, frequently in a non-profit model but not necessarily. And it certainly takes support from the community and the state to make sure they succeed,” he said.
Dunne pointed to the lack of access to high-speed fiber optic internet access as an area the state could support and invest in to help attract new businesses to co-working spaces in Vermont.
The Center on Rural Innovation’s pilot campus in Springfield has taken advantage of the town’s unique access to high-speed fiber-optic connection.
However, not all communities have the infrastructure to support fiber connection, and Priestley said it is rarely affordable in places it is available.
She said her second largest expense behind monthly rent is paying for broadband.
“Broadband is the electricity of our time,” Dunne said.
Co-chair of the committee, Sen. Alison Clarkson (D) echoed their call for improved internet access in rural communities.
“We need to have the best high-speed in every downtown,” she said. “We also need it to every premise; to every home, to every business.”
Others who testified emphasized the need to support affordable-housing initiatives that bolster the communities surrounding co-working spaces.
Legislatures in Montpelier are reviewing multiple housing proposals this session, including a multi-million dollar housing revenue bond and housing rehabilitation incentive program.
WEBVTT MODEL FOR SUCCESS. . MATT DUNNE, DIRECTOR OF CENTER OF RURAL INNOVATION “WE NEED TO BE PROACTIVE ABOUT IT AND MAKE SURE THAT WE’RE IN A PLACE WHERE NEW BUSINESSES CAN START BECAUSE ENTRAPANUERS OF TODAY ARE THE EMPLOYERS OF TOMORROW.” BUSINESS LEADERS FROM ACROSS VERMONT – MEETING WITH LAWMAKERS TO DISCUSS THE POTENTIAL OF CO-WORKING SPACES TO ACT AS A SPARK PLUG FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT. MONIQUE PRIESTLEY, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF SPACE ON MAIN “IT’S A PLACE FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE JUST MOVING INTO TOWNS TO KNOW THEY HAVE A COMMUNITY TO STEP INTO.” MONIQUE PRIESTLEY IS THE FOUNER OF THE SPACE ON MAIN… ONE OF DOZENS OF COMMUNAL WORK FACILITIES THROUGHOUT THE STATE THAT SHE SAYS HELPS FOSTER ENTRIPINUERHSI P BY BRINGING NEW BUSINESS VENTURES TOGETHER UNDER THE SAME ROOF. MONIQUE PRIESTLEY, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF SPACE ON MAIN “PEOPLE SEE EADCHOTHER AND HEARING COVERSATIONS AND THAT’S SPARKING IDEAS OR WAYS FOR THEM TO ENGAGE WITH OTHER PEOPLE. THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, HOUSING AND GENRAL AFFARS HEARD TESTAMONY ON THE COLLABORATIVE SPACES HAVE BEEN POPULAR IN START-UP HUBS LIKE BOSTON AND NEW YORK… AND DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER OF RURAL INNOVATION MATT DUNNE OF RURAL INNOVATION MATT DUNNE SAYS USING THEM TO JUMP START DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENTS IN VERMONT WILL TAKE A UNIQUE TOUCH. MATT DUNNE, DIRECTOR OF CENTER OF RURAL INNOVATION “IT TAKES GRASS- ROOTS ACTIVITIES, FREQUENTLY IN A NON-PROFIT MODEL BUT NOT ALWAYS NESSICARILY, AND SUPPORT FROM THE STATE AND THE COMMUNITY TO MAKE SURE THEY SUCCEED.” ONE KEY AREA HE POINTS TO FOR STATE ASSISTANCE IS SUPPORTING EFFORTS TO EXPAND HIGH- SPEED INTERNET. MATT DUNNE, DIRECTOR OF CENTER OF RURAL INNOVATION “BROADBAND IS THE ELECTRICITY OF OUR TIME. IT IS A NESSICARY PART TO BE ABLE TO PARTISCIPATE IN ECONOMIES ALL OVER THE GLOBE.” SEN. ALISON CLARKSON WINDSOR, VICE CHAIR OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPEMTN, HOUSING, GENERAL AFFAIRS “WE NEED TO HAVE THE BEST HIGH- SPEED IN EVERY DOWNTOWN AND WE ALSO NEED IT IN EVERY PREMISE, IN EVERY HOME IN EVERY BUSINESS.” OTHER WHO TESTIFIED URGED THE COMMITTEE TO SUPPORT HOUSING INCENTIVES AND GRANT PROGRAMS TO HELP BOLSTER COMMUNITY GROWTH AROUND CO- WORKING SPACES. IN BRADFORD, ROSS KETSCHKE NBC 5 NEWS.
Several people have asked for a copy of the speech that I gave when receiving this year’s Cohase Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Award. Here it is, with love – and without my rushed reading:
I want to share appreciation for everyone fighting all of the million little uphill battles. In their personal lives. Professional lives. And civically-engaged lives. Please don’t forget to share your stories. The most valuable lesson that I’ve learned over the course of the last year is that everything we are and everything we do is completely intertwined. And I think that a majority of people don’t reflect on that nearly enough. Many aren’t remotely aware of the world around them. How are we supposed to solve global issues if we don’t even realize the issues our neighbors are facing? Or sometimes, realize the issues affecting us internally?
I want to take a minute to share appreciation for everyone in the room who spends their evenings in meetings and their weekends volunteering, especially when they’re sometimes the only people that show up. We’ve all been in too many meetings to count where the questions on the table are, “Are we doing any good?” “Should we keep meeting?” “How do we get people to engage?” I heard this great quote at the Women’s March rally in Montpelier this past weekend. To paraphrase, “It’s important to be an activist, but the real work is in those 10,000 meetings for social change. That’s where the important stuff happens.” Thank you for going to the meetings.
I want to share appreciation for everyone who takes the time to listen to people. Who shares coffee with a kid with a business idea or a parent who is struggling. Who is never too busy to send that email introduction that can transform lives – even the ones that can’t. Who takes the time to review an application. Who shares their perspective willingly, and respectfully.
I personally believe that each of us has a responsibility to contribute everything we can to bettering society. Thank you for showing up, for doing the work, and for changing lives.
Thank you for changing my life. There are a lot of people in this room that have shared their time, energy, support, and story with me. You have written the emails and listened. You have opened doors for me. You have challenged my point of view and helped me grow. You have provided cheers. And hugs. Thank you for keeping me going. I promise to pay it forward.
The Space On Main was founded as a nonprofit in 2017 and opened yesterday in hopes that it could promote a greater sense of community and connection for people living and working in the Cohase Region (Northern Upper Valley) of Vermont and New Hampshire. Here is my speech from the ribbon cutting ceremony:
For those of you who thought you should show up, but still don’t understand what the heck this is – thank you for being open and curious. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
The Space On Main is a nonprofit center for people to create. To Experiment. To share their passions. To learn. To have fun! To enjoy work again. And most importantly, to connect to the amazing people that are just outside of their current circle.
There’s a lot of suck going on right now. If all you experience, every day is your daily routine piled with whatever depressing information major media dumps on you, you’re going to feel it. People are losing their sense of community and their ability to connect with it. It’s in that community that you experience the hope, beauty, and energy of being part of a bigger thing. Of humanity. Of being alive.
And that’s the true goal of The Space. To facilitate community connections. To give you a spot to teach that skill that you’ve always wanted to share. To give you an outlet to display your talents. To learn from your neighbor. To get out of your PJs, off of your couch, and to work next to those other 100 people who are telecommuting for jobs elsewhere around the world. To share coffee. And Wifi.
Every person here today has had a hand in making this happen. And I can’t thank you enough. When Hill’s and Perry’s went out of business, the town felt this hard. Every meeting I went to was covered in a sadness that I and others really weren’t sure we’d recover from. I personally started thinking that I should move back to Seattle where my full-time office is located. I had shared the dream of a community-focused building with most of my closest friends and mentors for years, but it was usually tossed up as a pipe dream. I myself considered it a retirement dream. Then at a Bradford Business Association social, Marvin told me it was time to share it with Angela. I did. Right then. Almost exactly two years later, here we are.
Because of each of you. Some of you played particularly key roles, which I would like to highlight here today. The first two couldn’t be here today as they passed within this last year.
Carol Priestley. Who volunteered tirelessly and always brought us along. To church, school, library reading programs, Memorial Day parades, and every other thing that she could coordinate or help with. She taught me the value of giving back, even when you can barely afford to stay afloat. And she taught the love and commitment that comes from the sense of belonging to your community. The Village of Piermont raised me, because everyone was always chipping in to be a part of something bigger than themselves (and taking care of me in so many ways).
Hellen Darion. Who passed on her 103rd birthday. She was spunky, critical, and found wonderment in every aspect of life. I got to know Hellen by giving her computer lessons, which eventually turned into being her Google-searching partner. Over the course of 8 years, we looked up everything. We’d often take times just to talk and reflect over whatever came to mind. Hellen’s constant question was, “Do you feel like you’re doing the most you can do?” I’d often reply, “I want to do something bigger, but I don’t know how yet.” And then she’d tell me she wanted to kick me and to figure it out. She drove me.
Nancy Jones. You all tease the heck out of me for being on so many boards. You can thank Nancy for that. My entry ask was Bradford Conservation Commission. 9 years ago. She asked me to serve. She gave me that first sense of being a part of serving something on behalf of myself. She took me to countless association annual meetings and dinners and I was always happy to go. I didn’t really understand how powerful that was until just recently. She is a mentor, a friend, and a powerful woman role-model.
Marvin Harrison. He’s responsible for me being on another handful of boards. He has a way of telling people to ask me to serve, and then tells me I’m doing too much. He’s my go-to. The one I email way too many times a day to ask how to approach situations and people. The most respected person in any room. The wise-cracker. A friend and mentor. I’m going to steal his words for a minute – “My hero”.
Donna Williams. Who’s been a mom to me since high school. My best friend. She poses hard questions and inspires me. She keeps me grounded, supports me, and even when I have crazy ideas, she’ll do things like provide the IRS application fee for a nonprofit startup.
Ryan Lockwood. My partner in life, love, laughter. You should probably all give him a hug. He’s the one who laughs when I run around the house bouncing after an exciting meeting. He’s the one who comforts me when I’m so frustrated in the world that I can’t do anything except cry. He’s the one who encourages me when I’m doubting myself the most. Who does things like stay at The Space working all day and night to get it ready without once saying he’d rather be anywhere else.
Vin and Angela Wendell. They probably thought they were crazy 1000 times throughout this. I thought they were crazy. I appreciate everything they’ve done, but more importantly, I respect them so much. I know they want this just as much as I do. I can’t even begin to express what this means to me and to the community – once they understand what this is.
My board members. A team of my closest friends from both coasts. But not just close friends. The most intelligent people I know who would have my back in life and business. But also a team of my most trusted and respected friends who I knew would keep me in check, call me out, and make me stop to think things through.
And now everyone else. The hundreds of people who have provided an ear. Encouragement. Excitement. Their life stories in a coffee shop or at their dining tables. Who let me in and shared their passions. Who shared their frustrations. And their dreams. And their address book. And their monetary support. Holy crap you guys. This whole thing has blown me away, inspired me, challenged me, taught me, and given me hope.
We made a thing together. And I’ll never be able to express how much that means.
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.