SWANTON — By pure coincidence or true grit, nearly every small business on Swanton’s Merchant’s Row is owned or operated by a woman.
To name a few, Swanton is home to Scampers, Cody’s, Bees on Broadway, Flowers by Jenny, Midnite Sew What, Karen’s Hair Studio, Vision Nutrition, Divine Treasures, Swanton House of Pizza, Champlain Insurance and Vermont Precision Tools.
While not all are owned outright by women or aren’t small businesses, like Precision Tools, statistically compared to the state of Vermont, Swanton is pushing the average up.
According to a study by the Vermont Commission on Women, 32% of businesses in the state are owned by women.
The same study found that the number of women-owned businesses is growing at a faster rate than businesses owned by men, but that women-owned businesses are still smaller in size and lower in annual revenues.
Angela Carr, who opened Divine Treasures in early October 2022 with her husband Chad Carr, said it isn’t easy for a woman to open or operate a business, especially when you take history into account.
Historically, she said women were expected to exclusively be a homemaker or to focus on caring for their husband while he was the breadwinner. Carr said that pressure has eased in modern society, but it’s still more expected for a woman to put her dreams or passions on hold to take care of the kids at home.
Carr operated a registered daycare for 20 years when she had her own children and grandchildren, but now that they’re established on their own, she finally had the time to start her own business. Natasha Carr, her daughter, also has her own photography business with a studio and office in the basement of Divine Treasures.
“I think females have to put more of their passions aside than men,” Carr said. “When men build a business, their backbone is usually their spouse who will take care of the family. We’ll be their rock, while the men are pursuing their dreams.”
Carr said she didn’t want to take away from men in business or be sexist, but that the societal pressure to raise the kids and take care of the home is much greater on women and is a detriment to women in business.
Darci Benoit, the owner of Bees on Broadway in Swanton, said the most important aspect of running a business is not only support from customers, but support from family as well.
“Owning a business, as a woman, as a mom and a wife is impossible without the support of your family,” Benoit told the Messenger via email. “It is also not a 9-5 kind of life. Your mind is always on your business and what is next. It is a passion that consumes much of your energy and you need the family that understands that.”
Benoit said she hopes her daughter, who has been learning how to interact with customers and run a cash register, will learn life skills that not all kids have the chance to learn.
She also said some of the biggest supporters for her business have been the other women in town, and said about 85% of her customers are women.
“Women support other women,” Benoit said. “I keep my business close to home, because many of these women have become my friends. So many I never would have met without keeping my business in Swanton.”
Molly Lambert, a member of the Swanton Enhancement Project, which aims to create a more vibrant village center, said it’s great to see people getting involved in the community to make it a more welcoming place.
“[Swanton] is a beautiful town and village, and we’ve got a lot of smart people who are really committed not only to their businesses but their community,” Lambert said.
Lambert enjoys seeing the range of businesses in the area and those that run them. She highlighted Monica Greene from Vermont Precision Tools and Deborah Winters who operates Firetech Sprinkler Corp. and is a co-chair of the Enhancement Project along with serving on a number of other boards.
“I think what is more important than people’s gender is their motivation in operating their businesses in ways that benefit their communities,” Lambert said.
In Vermont, the This Way Up project is tracking the number of women-owned businesses via survey. The project was started by the Vermont Women’s Fund to more accurately determine the power and potential for women to contribute to the state’s economy.
Business owners, CEOs, or business directors are encouraged to register their woman-owned business and prospective business owners can use it to connect with other professionals and learn from resources on the site.
“We want to give voice and visibility to the women powering our communities all across our state, no matter if their enterprises are small or large, brick-and-mortar or digital, solo entrepreneurs or major employers,” the website states.
The site also has a map feature to help users find women-owned businesses in their communities.
Saturday, Nov. 26, is the federally recognized “Small Business Saturday,” which aims to draw more crowds to smaller, locally-owned businesses instead of the larger retailers popular on Black Friday.
On Saturday, Dec. 10, Vision Nutrition in Swanton will be hosting a Christmas vendor event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.