This article was written by Patrick Ripley, Director of e-Commerce at the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC)
Rochester was one of many southern Vermont communities slammed by Hurricane Irene in late summer 2011. “The town of Rochester was totally cut off for the first week after Irene. We had no electricity and no services,” recalled Beth Frock, who owns Boysenberry Smart Clothes in downtown Rochester. “The roads and bridges all around us were washed out or simply gone,” she remembers.
Frock has operated the North Main Street shop for decades, specializing in Vermont-made fleece products such as jackets, pants, vests, buntings and children’s clothes. With the town isolated, and Boysenberry still dependent on its in-house design and sewing studio – not to mention its retail customers – the future looked uncertain.
“Although the roads were quickly patched up and we got electricity back, there was no outside traffic,” Frock said. “This situation continued into the foliage and Christmas seasons. I had to take a part time job in order to make ends meet,” she said.
Frock was able to keep Boysenberry open in the tenuous months following Irene, but the situation prompted her to take a close look at the businesses’ future. She evaluated her online presence, which she deemed inadequate and decided to reexamine her business model before taking action.
Frock sought out the help of the Vermont Small Business Development Center’s (VtSBDC) regional business advisor Deborah Eibner and Director of e-Commerce Patrick Ripley, a partner in the Vermont Digital Economy Project.
With the help of the VtSBDC, Beth Frock was able to make some changes to her business to ensure its continued vitality. One of these changes was a major website upgrade. “Although I had a website, at the time it had fallen into disrepair from lack of funds and time,” Frock said.
Major shopping cart updates and site design changes were needed to move the website into a competitive online retail space. Boysenberryvt.com is now an optimized, well designed retail site with plenty of room for expansion.
“The help I have received from VtSBDC has been invaluable in terms of giving me knowledge, support and a funding to get my website back on track,” Frock said. “This would not have happened without these things,” she said.
But as any business owners in the digital space know, businesses must continue to evolve to remain competitive. With help from VtSBDC and private web firms, Frock is already moving on with next steps promoting and marketing her new website online. “I am now in the process of working with a company that is training me to build my Web business,” Frock said, adding that she is already seeing increased web traffic from the recent changes.
“With the coaching I am receiving, I have been able to grow my online presence and am beginning to see results in the growth of my website,” Frock said. “Patrick Ripley and Deborah Eibner have been willing to help is so many ways. I would recommend working with both of them to any business owner.”