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Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

P2P Client: Vermont Smoke & Cure

P2P Client: Vermont Smoke & Cure

Tradition, Taste...and a New Recipe for Success

Named a local Vermont food treasure in a recent Boston Globe article, touted by Gourmet magazine as having a “pepperoni that makes a delightful hors d’oeuvre”, and featured on the Food Network’s Road Tasted with the Neelys, Vermont Smoke and Cure (VSC) has been generating a lot of buzz lately.

As a key hub in Vermont’s agricultural economy, VSC produces and sells branded specialty meats and provides meat processing services to Vermont farmers. Their mission is to profitably create improved economic opportunities by providing processing services to farmers, as well as aggregating, processing and marketing meats they purchase from farmers.

Consumer trends in buying local and eating healthier – not to mention just great tasting products – have contributed to VSC’s rapid revenue growth of 80% in 2007 and 40% 2008. With continued growth rates in the 40-50% range and sales closing in on $2.0 million in 2009, VSC is bursting at the seams at their existing 3,300 square foot facility. Distribution has expanded beyond Vermont to the Northeast and Midwest and discussions are underway with several minor and major chains, including natural food chain Whole Foods.

As a senior management team of one, it was lonely at the top. Chris Bailey, CEO of VSC, realized that in order to grow the company successfully he needed a broader spectrum of expertise to master the key growth areas and opportunities for VSC – including facilities expansion, financing growth, compensation / management strategy, and branding direction. In Vermont, and at their scale, accessing the right kind of capital to grow the business – without compromising their mission – has been one of the biggest challenges. A leap to a larger, more efficient production facility (from 3,300 to 10,000 square foot) is critical to continued growth, more efficient production, and VSC’s ability to produce a broader range of products.

Chris saw the P2P Collaborative as “a great opportunity to tap into people with complementary business and leadership skills – and more experience at rapidly growing a business than I currently brought to the table. I wanted to be sure I was asking the right questions and thinking through all the key strategic decisions I would be facing.” Knowing that VSC needed a new facility and growth financing to keep momentum going – Chris needed to put together the pieces quickly.

The P2P team brought expertise in consumer goods, value added food production, branding and marketing, strategy, and human resource management. P2P also connected Chris to other peer advisors who were instrumental in providing perspective on raising capital, expanding facilities and crafting incentive compensation plans for production workers.

Over the last 18 months, the peer advisors worked through a variety of strategic issues facing VSC. “On the real estate side,” Chris said, “the advisors helped me see the value in being patient and worked with me to fully weigh all the options on the table. They helped me think through a strategy that would accelerate sales while considering new facility factors. We talked about ways to transition to a new location while keeping business interruptions to a minimum. Now, VSC is fortunate to have the opportunity to purchase the ideal facility – an existing building at the size and cost which fits our current stage of growth and budget.” Chris adds that “the work we did on VSC’s brand in moving our message towards ‘healthy’ enabled us to identify and directly communicate this as a key attribute of our brand and thereby capitalize on the growing consumer trend in buying healthy.”

As Chris summed up, “What I found most helpful about the program were the experienced, wise, and successful advisors. They encouraged me to consider paths I might not have identified on my own or considered as strongly. It was refreshing to step outside of the day to day push of the company. P2P helped me identify and pushed me to get moving on key elements of VSC’s healthy growth (mission, vision, staffing structure and plan) and then provided me with valuable feedback. I know that I can call on P2P’s networks from time to time even now that I’m done with the program – and those connections are really valuable!”