Today, many entrepreneurs utilize crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter to launch businesses. Despite a number of crowd-funded success stories, this method focuses on the virtual community rather than the local community, which is often essential to get an enterprise off the ground.  This session focuses on the importance of using community resources to build an affordable manufacturing facility, attract the highest quality staff, and source raw materials locally. My company, Against the Grain Gourmet is used as a case study.

Against The Grain began during Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation’s annual Business Plan Competition. Given the opportunity to create a business we wanted to run, we built livable wages and attractive benefits into our business plan and priced our products accordingly. We also built lasting relationships with local farmers from whom we still source 14,000 dozen fresh eggs and 1500 gallons of milk a week. Our model also emphasized organic growth through investing any profits in the business. Today we employ 70 people whose starting salaries are nearly twice the minimum wage. We pay full medical benefits, 22 paid days off, profit sharing, and offer a matching 401(K) plan.

Against The Grain has been successful because of its products and because of a favorable market. It has also been successful because of the quality staff we have attracted and the foresight of Brattleboro’s business community. We’ve gone “against the grain” from the beginning, and I believe companies like ours are the future of Vermont and other areas struggling to attract and retain dynamic businesses.

Nancy Cain Head ShotNancy Cain is a co-owner of Against The Grain Gourmet, a national gluten-free bread and pizza company and the fastest growing company in the state of Vermont. She is the author of the recently-published cookbook: Against The Grain: extraordinary gluten-free recipes made with real, all-natural ingredients. Nancy holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and has been an academic, an investment banker, and in her dark years, a real estate agent.