Funding for ASPIRE! was made possible in part with a Rural Business Enterprise Grant from USDA Rural Development.the ASPIRE!  It is the brainchild of Joe Patrissi of NEKCA, with significant input from Ann Traverso Moore of Springfield College, Alice Kitchel of Puma Consulting, Michelle Tarryk of NEKLS, René Swain of Umbrella, as a project to engage and empower women entrepreneurs of the Northeast Kingdom, which we call the NEK: Caledonia, Essex and Orleans counties.

Its first project manager, Diana Henry,  received a warm welcome an acknowledgement from Women Business Owners in October at their semi-annual conference at the State House. ASPIRE! started to lift off the page a week later when Change the Story’s Tiffany Bluemle agreed to be the keynote speaker at ASPIRE!’s kickoff luncheon. Introduced by the Vermont Women’s Fund’s Director Meg Smith and followed by Jane Campbell, Director of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, ASPIRE! formally came out to the NEK community on November 30th, with 80 people or more in attendance at the Dancing Sails banquet room of the Eastside Restaurant in Newport, with support from the venue’s owner Dena Gray and Passumpsic Savings Bank. Its awards are rich in opportunities for applicants and panelists for the first tier award of $2,000 for technical assistance, Circle of Support members for successful ASPIRANTS!, pitch judges for the second tier of $5,000 grants.
ASPIRE!s kickoff took place on November 30th with a luncheon at the Eastside Restaurant and speaking program. Presenters included some of the most inspiring women in Vermont: Meg Smith, Director of the Vermont Women’s Fund and Jane Campbell, Executive Director of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, and Tiffany Bluemle, Director of Change The Story VT, who will present the keynote on Change the Story’s new status report: “Women’s Business Ownership and the Vermont Economy”.
NEKCA Aspire has a Facebook page now. To volunteer for the Circles of Support, or to help sponsor the process, and all who want to spread the word, are welcome to get in touch to ctalbot@nekcavt.org