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The MINT chooses six entrepreneurs for a boost

High-end portable restrooms, pop-up Mexican cuisine and a bath brush for people with disabilities are a few of the business ventures chosen to get a boost from the MINT’s OnRamp program.

The MINT, at 112 Quality Lane, is a “maker space.” Members pay a fee and have access to workspace, tools and other resources, including networking opportunities. The OnRamp program is an entrepreneurial development program the MINT received grant funding to help implement.

The six applicants who were chosen will spend the next several months getting support from the MINT, access to a business development curriculum from LaunchVT and React, access to Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies’ ScaleHere program, one-on-one mentoring, guaranteed seats at MINT lectures and space at the Green Mountain Power Energy Innovation Center.

Those chosen include Jen Cohen, of Calypso Connections, which does team building through group musicianship; Darian Fagan, who wants to manufacture a bath brush for people with mobility issues; Tim Hewitt, owner of Preferred Restrooms; Maria Luisa Murguia, who wants to grow her pop-up regional Mexican cuisine business; Patty Thomas, who wants to create “adaptive electronic supports” for people with disabilities; and Erica Zimmer, of Vermont Workroom — Woodshop and Classroom.

Hewitt said in a Thursday interview he’s been operating his preferred restroom business for six seasons now, going full-time this year. The business provides high-end portable restrooms to venues. They feature running water, lights and vents. Hewitt said he built the frame for his first preferred restroom trailer at the MINT and learned about the OnRamp opportunity that way.

“I’m a hammer and nails kind of guy,” he said. He hopes to learn more about creating business plans, financial accounting and dealing with attorneys through the OnRamp program.

Fagan is an occupational therapist working for VNA & Hospice of the Southwest Region. She had a client whose mobility restrictions made it difficult to bathe, so Fagan went to the store and looked around for a bath brush she could tinker with.

“I found something I brought home, I chopped it up, made something, tried it,” she said. “No good.”

She bought another brush and tried again. This time her client liked the result. Fagan said she’d like to get the brush patented, but if not, at least make them on a large scale and have them available for people who come to VNA & Hospice.

The OnRamp cohort will be officially announced at “MINTacular,” a celebration the MINT holds every year, held at the MINT from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

“I was so impressed with the quality and variety of applications we received for the program,” said Karen McCalla, MINT “maker evangelist,” in charge of starting the program. “The selection committee had a hard time picking just six cohort members. Luckily, the Rutland region is rich with entrepreneurial support, so the applicants not chosen for this program will have lots of other opportunities that we’re actively connecting them to. It’s very exciting to see it all come together.”

keith.whitcomb

@rutlandherald.com


PHOTO by RH ALCOTT  

Tina spaulding:

“Taking care of cows at the fair starts long before the fair. You have to try to find the heifers that you feel have the best confirmation, body-wise. You start feeding them a little bit differently before the fair starts to make sure that they’re well-grown. You start washing them and clipping them before the fair starts to keep their hair nice and shiny and white. You train them to lead before the fair starts, and you just start playing with them, usually a couple of months before the fair. And when you get to the fair, you’re feeding them all the time, they take a bath every morning, so we’re usually up here about 5 o’clock in the morning. And then on show day, they get a little extra attention, a little more spiffiness, a little more spic and span, a little more shine to them before they go into the ring. Most of them are like big dogs. They follow you around, they want to be patted. They like people. They’ll moo when people walk by to try to get them to come over and scratch their heads.” bit.ly/2019VTStateFair


News
Teen photographers sought
Teens Wanted: Castleton students research homelessness in the teenage community

CASTLETON — A university professor is trying to shed light on adolescent and teenage homelessness by inviting anyone aged 14-19 who live in non-permanent housing to take photographs of their lives and experiences for a research project.

In addition to teaching at Castleton University, Social Work Program Director Dr. Michael Reeves sits on the board of directors for the Center for the Prevention of Homelessness, seeing first-hand how people of all ages are affected by impermanent housing.

The group with the fewest resources, Reeves said, are the barely and soon-to-be legal teenagers in middle school, high school and early college, a group he’s inviting to tell their story through photographs.

“This is their original work,” Reeves said. “What they take pictures of is up to them. ... It could be an arm or a leg or even an earring that mom made.”

The project originated while Reeves was completing his dissertation at the Connecticut School of Social Work. He launched the project first in Rhode Island compiling photographs from adolescents without permanent housing to better understand the conditions and situations in which homeless teens found themselves.

This year Reeves brought the project to Castleton University, and hopes to recruit 15 people to document their lives through a camera lens that will be provided to them if they don’t have one already in partnership with the Mentor Connector program.

“This is not quantitative research,” Reeves said. “This is the kind of research where you want to tell a story. It’s a lived experience for homeless kids.”

The photographs taken and submitted will then be cropped as needed and displayed in a local gallery, with anonymous quotes and stories attached, Reeves said.

“If you’re couch surfing, or wondering where you are going to sleep tonight makes it difficult to focus on academics,” Reeves said. “Is there going to be a meal at dinner time? A lot of these kids don’t know what is going to happen.”

It’s only been three years since the PTA implemented systems measuring “precariously-housed youth,” and Reeves said Point In Time counts — homeless population head counts conducted on one random day in January — left major discrepancies and often reported low and inaccurate numbers.

Thus far in 2019, 40 homeless youth were recorded in Rutland younger than 24, with 32 of those children younger than 18, Reeves said.

“This is a population whose voices haven’t been heard,” Reeves said.

In his previous projects, Reeves said the main themes of the submitted photographs were personal connections, shelter, basic needs, warmth, food and safety in the homeless community.

Participants will be rewarded with a $10 gift card to a local restaurant and get to select two of the photographs they take in the three weeks allotted for project completion, with a hopeful gallery date of somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Reeves said.

After reaching out to one of the project’s researchers — all Castleton University students — participants will fill out a survey and talk about their situation before embarking on their three-week documentary mission.

At the end, the pictures will be group-reviewed with the other participants before deciding which pictures to show if they want to display it.

In addition to exposure and attention, Reeves said the greatest gift to Rutland’s homeless population would be the creation of a family homeless shelter, so families could be housed together, and children and teens could get the social connection with one another crucial to positive development and achieving a permanent housing situation.

“Friendships were more long term just in the time that they were in the shelter,” Reeves said of a family shelter in Rhode Island. “They were able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

katelyn.barcellos@rutlandherald.com


Local
Paramount announces new season

Wynonna Judd, Mamma Mia and the Russian National Ballet will all take to the Paramount Theatre stage for the 2019-20 season.

The Paramount announced its lineup through the end of May, unveiling a familiar mix of classic rock, country, stand-up comedy and theater.

“I don’t think this season will be a surprise to anyone,” programming director Eric Mallette said. “I think this is the caliber of artist people have come to expect. ... It really is a multi-facted approach to entertainment. The market has said to us again and again, the community has shown us, that they want a performing arts center with a varied line-up.”

Among the newcomers to the stage is Postmodern Jukebox, a group that gained fame by posting videos to YouTube of swing and Motown-style covers of modern songs.

“They have such a limited touring schedule that it’s hard to nail them down,” Mallette said.

Cover bands figure heavily again this year, with tributes to Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles and Fleetwood Mac on the schedule. “One Night of Queen” returns to the Paramount April 20. “Journeyman: A Journey to Eric Clapton,” scheduled for Nov. 22, features Kofi Baker, the son of Cream drummer Ginger Baker.

Arlo Guthrie, who performed in the first public show when the Paramount re-opened, returns Oct. 2. Kip Moore, who has scored a string of hits on the country charts in recent years, is scheduled for Oct. 26 while country superstar Wynonna Judd appears Oct. 3. Cheap Trick, Richard Marx, the Righteous Brothers and former Creed lead signer Scott Stapp are all in the line-up, as are classical/pop/jazz fusion ensemble Pink Martini, Christian rock group Tenth Avenue North and Celtic fiddler Natalie McMaster.

The comedy line-up includes Bob Marley and Bill Engvall.

A local production of “Mamma Mia” is slated for multiple nights Nov. 1-3, “Stomp” returns to the Paramount Jan. 3-4 and the Russian National Ballet does “Swan lake” March 14.

Mallette said he was proud of the family oriented shows, including “Sesame Street Live,” “Dinosaur World Live,” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show.”

“Finally getting ‘Sesame Street Live’ to stop in Rutland, I feel, is a major coup,” he said.

Another catch, according to Mallette, is the Champions of Magic show scheduled for April 30.

“That’s a big West End success story,” he said. “They’ve toured all over Europe and are just now coming to the States.”

gordon.dritschilo

@rutlandherald.com