Announcing VBSR’s Small Business Resiliency Fund Grantees

VBSR is pleased to announce the grantees for the VBSR Small Business Resiliency Fund. A committee of VBSR partners selected four VBSR member businesses to receive both a $10,000 grant award and referrals to VBSR partner organizations offering financial and technical assistance. Businesses were selected based upon financial viability, need, and triple-bottom-line excellence. Congratulations to the grantees!

Perky Planet Coffee

Perky Planet Coffee is a cafe in Burlington whose business model provides meaningful, competitively paid and inclusive jobs for people with disabilities, a population that has an unemployment rate over 80%. Perky Planet has insulated the ceiling of their cafe to cut down on echos for their employee with hearing aids and implants, invested in self-checkout systems to make the job of cashier more accessible, and purchased an automatic and computerized coffee roaster to create a job for their employees. As a safe and welcoming destination for care-givers and their disabled clients, the coffee shop shows that by fostering understanding and empathy, both customers and employees benefit. They recently launched, where a donation to LGBTQ+ organizations will be made in coffee producing nations from each sale of coffee. Moving forward, Perky Planet Coffee looks to expand its mission to using business as a force to create a more accepting world for people with disabilities.

“For people with disabilities, a job is more than just a paycheck.  A job means dignity, respect, a sense of purpose, and a connection with the community. The VBSR Resiliency Grant will not only help our business survive, it is an investment in courage, love, friendship, compassion, community and empathy.” – Richard Vaughn, Owner, Perky Planet Coffee

Miss Weinerz

Miss Weinerz is a small bakery and food distribution network based in Burlington that specializes in ecologically responsible, sustainable pastries that invigorate and support the local food system and community. Their mission is to provide regenerative neighborhood nourishment which is realized by purchasing an unprecedented 100% of their produce from local food vendors for baked goods production. Unlike most bakeries, Miss Weinerz’s focus is on produce that grows in Vermont and avoids imports like nuts and citrus, which have a large environmental footprint. Even while operating at a small-scale, the business engages deeply with community partners supporting food security –  such as Feeding Chittenden and Food Not Bombs – through donations in food, staff support, and supplies. With a small seasonal staff of 2-4, Miss Weinerz embodies what it means to be a people-first workplace by paying livable wages and prioritizing safety and flexibility during COVID-19.

“Miss Weinerz is focused on preparing ecologically responsible food for regenerative neighborhood nourishment. Thanks to this grant we can safely grow and bake through 2021, and expand our educational platforms to help others do the same in their neighborhoods.” – Ren Weiner, Owner, Miss Weinerz

Stowe Street Cafe 

The Waterbury-based coffee shop Stowe Street Cafe prides itself on being a model for how a small local business in the hospitality industry can support its community, invest in protecting the planet, and cultivate a family-friendly work culture. Despite financial challenges due to COVID-19, Stowe Street Cafe demonstrated its commitment to support social justice and food security by raising over $9,000 for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU-VT) and providing meals and supplies to community members in need. The cafe has always strived to use environmentally friendly practices and as of this year, is now supported by offsets from renewable solar panels installed at the owners residence. In the next 1-3 years, Stowe Street Cafe plans to increase the benefits it can offer to its employees, increase its contributions to social justice education and investments across its community, and increase its investments in renewable energy and operations.

“Just as we were hitting our stride, we were hit with a pandemic that changed everything – except what being here in the first place has always meant to our team. Just like most other independent restaurants, coffee shops, and small businesses across the nation, keeping our doors open during this challenging time has not been easy. Still, we are committed to remaining a caring, creative, welcoming space for all. This VBSR Resiliency Grant is an investment in our commitment to our triple-bottom-line of people, planet, and prosperity and our efforts to practice, promote, and advocate for socially responsible business, policies, and healthy communities. Thank you!” – Nicole Grenier, Owner, Stowe Street Cafe

Waste Free Earth

Waste Free Earth is a Burlington-based service provider creating award-winning systems that empower others to incorporate zero waste behaviors. Waste Free Earth seeks to reinvent how society produces and consumes waste through education that engages and empowers others to take action. Waste Free Earth believes that businesses in particular must take a proactive approach to waste management. In 2021, Waste Free Earth launched Zero Waste Kickstart, the first membership-based training platform for start-ups and small businesses to learn how to implement zero waste operations throughout their company. In 2022, they plan to launch the “Zero Waste 101” program for individuals that want to take a deeper dive into zero waste living.

“We are incredibly grateful to have been chosen as one of the recipients of the VBSR Resiliency Grant! We plan to use this grant by providing a livable wage salary and full benefits for our full-time employee, in addition to providing all of our interns with Vermont’s livable wage at $15 an hour. Furthermore, this grant is a key factor in helping us fine-tune our New Year, Zero Waste Challenge to continue educating businesses and individuals on the importance of zero waste practices. Thank you for believing in our mission!” – Marina McCoy, Founder & CEO, Waste Free Earth

A special thank you to the following businesses who provided support and funds for the VBSR Small Business Resiliency Fund: