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This Way UP Feature Fridays: May

On Fridays, the Vermont Women's Fund profiles Vermont women entrepreneurs who are the foundation of our economy and communities. Follow the Women's Fund social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see these profiles posted each week.

Martha Dallas, Vermont Celebrants, Burlington

Martha demonstrates how purpose and business ideas can be sparked in the most curious places; for her, it was on a hiking trail.

“The courage to start working for myself came several years ago when I took up backpacking. The core of the business concept was something that I honed by being a participant in the Mercy Connections Start-Up Program for women entrepreneurs. I realized in that course that I wanted to do ritual work in the area where science and religion meet.”

While this is a very niche space, persistence and research powered her to become a “life-cycle celebrant” also known as a ceremony professional, and to start Vermont Celebrants.

Martha explains that she meets clients where they are in life and their beliefs to celebrate life’s milestones whether they be weddings or end-of-life ceremonies and new events to come. “What I love most about this work is the actual officiation. The richness and depth of the moments that unfold through the ceremony. It’s gratifying and humbling to hold and sense the power of the meaning of what we are doing.”

Working for herself is validating for Martha by knowing how valuable her services are to her clients and how glad they are to have found her. “I hope to grow my business but I am more excited about how I can use my business to change our culture in ways that inspire and excite {Vermonters}.”


Hannah Lake, Hannah Lake Coaching, Putney

Hannah works with people who are changing the game with smart, empathetic leadership. Coaching means many things to different people, but Hannah Lake Coaching breaks it down into actionable, achievable steps. In her words, she says, “My work prioritizes people finding their truest, authentic, and compassionate self so they can show up to their work as engaged, effective leaders. There is a lot of executive coaching out there still anchored in outdated approaches to business (in other words: how to succeed at work as an old white guy). People come to me for help managing imposter syndrome, building effective relationships at work, learning how to have difficult feedback conversations, and figuring out the next steps in their career.”

She started her career in urban planning, engineering, public transportation, and technology on huge public projects that shaped the way people move and how cities function. She says, “It was exciting work! My favorite part of every project was bringing people together and navigating all of the ‘just being a human’ bumps along the way. Now I bring these dynamic perspectives and my endless curiosity to my coaching work to help people bravely transform their next steps.”

Her favorite parts of owning her business are flexibility and connection. “I get to work with the coolest, smartest people from so many backgrounds and industries, from small businesses to giant tech companies,” she says. “I get to determine my company’s values, make decisions that best support me and my community, and do all of this on a schedule that lets me thrive at work and at home.”

Hannah lives in Putney with her wife Amy and their two dogs, Idgie and Miles, and what sounds like an extensive collection of footwear for every season of activities. She said, “You can find me wearing running shoes, hiking boots, garden clogs, skis, snowshoes, or on my bike or out paddling on the water.”


Joanie Kavanaugh, Complexions, Waitsfield

Joanie Kavanaugh will celebrate the 14th Anniversary of founding her business Complexions VT his July. While she is a nationally certified Licensed Esthetician or skincare specialist, she is also a sole practitioner, business owner, manager, secretary, laundry washer, bookkeeper, and inventory tracker/orderer. She explains, “[There is] lots to do in a small business, good thing my boss is awesome!”

Reflecting on her experience as a business owner operating through 14 years and a pandemic, she says, “I’ve finally learned that a successful business isn’t determined by making more money year after year, but it’s a work-play lifestyle that really matters.”

What may surprise people is that Joanie was a dental hygienist for 17 years but found that she was “really bored.”

"As I was turning 40 and getting married, my consternation lines were a negative feature I wanted fixed, but naturally. I met an Esthetician who did work with a Micro-Current machine, strengthening muscles of the face and neck, basically 'ironing out' the lines/wrinkles. Meeting with her weekly for 6 weeks, I learned about her licensing/training and knew this would be an ideal new career for me so I went back to school for Esthetics, working on my national certification over a two-year period.”

Joanie lives in the Mad River Valley with her husband–whom she met while running the Vermont City Marathon – and their cat Smokey. She loves the small town, know-your-neighbors vibe of the valley, and the ability to mountain bike/gravel bike and Nordic ski/backcountry ski.


Suzy Blais, Green Mountain Conscious Parenting


An early childhood educator and mom of 2, Suzy Blais is the founder of Green Mountain Conscious Parenting, the only certified Conscious Parent Coach in Vermont, and champion of all things consciousness.

“What inspired me to become a coach was my own journey to parenting. I was a mess of anxiety, worry, and fear when it came to my children. This manifested itself in many unconscious ways including me not being able to manage my regulation with my kids. I started going down a path back to my own childhood and exploring the ways in which I was bringing all my expectations, narratives, attachments, and stories to my children’s lives.”

With 25 years of experience as an educator and now as a coach, she pulls from a deep place of experience in behaviors and human development with the utmost compassion knowing that “we are all whole and worthy of love.”

Conscious Parenting empowers adults to strengthen their parent/child relationship by going back to the body and healing the parts from within. She explains, “We parent from parts of us that were created to protect us back when we needed protection. We can choose and create a new pathway.”

Dr. Emelia Brogna, Wayfinder Wellness and Physical Therapy, Shelburne

Dr. Emelia Brogna co-founded Wayfinder Wellness and Physical Therapy with the specialty to help patients recover when other physical therapy programs have not helped. Her experience as a child with chronic pain and health issues shaped how she treats and interacts with people. She and her partner and coworkers designed the practice to heal “with hospitality and heart.”™

What Emelia likes best about being a business owner is that if something isn’t working she can change it; just as she does with her patients. She seeks to understand her patients’ stories deeply as she explains, “In a way that then helps us drive medical outcomes and lifestyle outcomes that is different than anywhere else…That way we can help them gain back the things that they may not have been able to do.”

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