High Tech and Viniculture on Display During Tour of New Hampshire Women-Owned Businesses
On January 10, a group of intrepid New Englanders braved the weather (including a major highway closure due to ice and accidents) to join U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Acting SBA Administrator Jeanne Hulit for a roundtable discussion and business tour outside Manchester, New Hampshire. The day focused on women-owned businesses. While business owners’ concerns were diverse and wide-ranging, a single common theme emerged—the very limited availability of microloans.
Following the roundtable, Regional Advocate Lynn Bromley joined Senator Shaheen, Acting Administrator Hulit, and other SBA officials for a tour of two small businesses owned by women.
First was LaBelle Winery, where the roundtable was held. Winery owner Amy Labelle was named New Hampshire’s 2013 Woman Owned Small Business of the year, and for good reason. She and her husband, cellarmaster Cesar Arboleda, have grown their business from an idea 10 years ago to today’s ambitious enterprise. The business now employs 45 people in a facility that includes a store, café, tasting room, and the large post-and-beam function hall where the roundtable took place.
Before moving to her new location, LaBelle was bottling 18,000 gallons a year. One year and 27 stainless steel tanks later, she is producing 30,000 gallons. And she hopes to expand further.
LaBelle spent $5.3 million dollars on the new winery, a sum she calls “terrifying.” She calls her effort to secure financing a “study in persistence.” She and her husband pitched their plans to five banks before successfully arranging financing.
The second stop on the tour was Ion Beam Milling, a precision manufacturer of high-tech thin film products. These include standard microwave circuits as well as custom products built for specific applications.
Gail Quagan and her husband Bob founded Ion Beam Milling in 1982. Gail (the businesswoman) and Bob (the scientist) grew their business from a small facility with one miller, one machine, and two employees to today’s larger, modern facility with 13 full-time employees. CEO Jim Barrett now runs the day-to-day operations, Bob remains the chief science officer, and Gail the CFO.
As we were packing up to go, Barrett put in a plug for another local woman-owned business. Jim’s wife, Claudia Barrett, is the founder of a home-based coffee roasting business, CQ Coffee Roasters. That business is in full swing too—and fast outgrowing its space.
—Lynn Bromley, Region I Advocate