GMEDC-facilitated grant helps Bridgewater-based ShackletonThomas focus on its passion while addressing new market realities
Charles Shackleton and Miranda Thomas are happy to admit that their business is driven more by a passion for handwork and artistry
than a passion for the financial bottom line. As makers of high-end furniture and pottery, the Bridgewater-based enterprise has prospered
by this approach; Ms. Thomas’s pottery pieces, for example,have been acquired by some of the most prestigious private collections in the world, including Pope John Paul II, President Bill Clinton, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, and many others.
But when a passion for artistry is pitted against an economic downturn, Ms. Thomas said she was glad the Green Mountain Economic Development Corporation was there as a resource.
One of the things I remember most about the GMEDC is its help during very scary times, when customers just closed their wallets, she said. But GMEDC Executive Director Joan Goldstein was there for them. She helped us to see if there was any help out there.
At the time, she added, the company had to reduce its workforce from 18 full-time equivalents to 16, and reduce the hours of the remaining staff in order to accommodate the daunting market reality.
I believe a passion-based industry is important to the economic development of the state, because it helps drive the Vermont brand. It’s great that GMEDC is here to help businesses like ours, because it can make such a big difference.
Working with GMEDC, ShackletonThomas Furniture and Pottery was able to secure a technical assistance grant that enabled them to hire consultants to solidify their budgeting process, refine their branding communications, and get some technical work completed on their website.
In other words, it was the kind of work that is critical to any operation’s success, but not core to what it offers its customers. When
you’re an entrepreneur and an artist, you do what’s necessary to get the job done day-to-day, and we did that for 20 years, said Ms.
But the faltering economy gave the company an opportunity to clarify its priorities and drill down to what was truly essential to the operation. We were always budget conscious, but this was the first time we really had the tools to set a lean and mean budget and stick to it, Ms. Thomas said.
The branding, too, was a revealing exercise for the company.
The branding consultant helped us see that we were hiding our light under a bush, Mr. Shackleton noted. He really pinned us down and got us to come up with what really is the core of what we do, and the way we do it, so that we can communicate that to customers.
In this economy, when you see lots of businesses failing, these are the kinds of services that are really important, Mr. Shackleton
concluded. The consultants we were able to hire were extremely helpful and gave us great tools.
Although GMEDC’s securing of the technical assistance grants for ShackletonThomas has been the most impactful interaction so far, it hasn’t been the only one; the organization also referred ShackletonThomas to the Vermont Training Program, which provided incentives to train workers.
I believe a passion-based industry is important to the economic development of the state, because it helps drive the Vermont brand, said Ms. Thomas. It’s great that GMEDC is here to help businesses like ours, because it can make such a big difference.