Q: How many trophies do you make?
A: What we think of as trophies (figure on a base, or resin statue) make up 10% of our business but we make thousands and thousands of them and medals as well.
Q: What is the other 90%?
A: Most of our business is with companies, organizations and universities and we do loads of custom work, crystal awards, plaques, name pins, door plates - that’s why our website is vermontawards.com.
Q: Aren’t trophies how you started?
A: Not many now remember Baden’s House of Trophies but that is where we started, with Jerry Baden in his garage in Burlington – the year was 1959 – and bowling trophies were hot.
Q: What changed?
A: Jerry realized there was a future in quality engraving and he turned the business that way. Years later computer aided design, manufacturing off to China and the Internet have changed everything! Much of our national competition has shifted toward low-quality, cheap goods and low-quality engraving to match.
About 2002 (after 9/11) we realized we had to commit to be one thing or the other and we decided that we would do our level best to stick to our values, best said by our motto, “Recognition is Respect Made Visible.” We seek to offer the very best in everything we do. This includes respecting our customers and their needs as well as our staff and their lives.
Q: What’s the coolest stuff you make?
A: That’s a tough one – every day we make very cool things and the custom section of our website showcases a bunch of the fun stuff. (It is very early with the new website but we try to showcase more every day). Often the very best things are out the door before we remember to photograph them, darn it. The VBSR Terry Erich award is very cool and the trays we made for the 2010 MLB All Star game were also. However – we think that the standard things we do – the Rising Stars, Best Places to Work, someone’s retirement award – they are all very well made with a great deal of care and hopefully very meaningful to the recipient. Some of the new sand carved glass is just out of the ball park.
Q: People say Vermont Is a tough place to do business – how has it been for you?
A: Although one of our owners, Steve Swett, has deep roots here we were in a number of other states before acquiring VTE in 1996 and we are happy to tell you - Vermont ROCKS!!! When we had a problem with federal agencies saying they could only buy through a particular catalog, Senator Leahy’s office helped us get the facts out. Our Lt. Governor, Phil Scott, came and worked for a day in our store – he really worked! Daily we have people tell us they could buy something cheaper on line (and don’t we know it – trying to compete with no overhead and minimum wage employees is very tough) but they appreciate having us here. I never experienced any of this in any other state.
Q: What does the future hold for Vermont Trophy & Engraving?
A: We are a tiny microbusiness of 7 people. All of us, owners Margi and Jessie Swett, and staff, Dawn, Karen, Scott, Usha (the chocolate lab), Cory and Sandy are really committed to making every single item that goes out of our doors be the best we can make it.
Q: You’ve just launched a massive newwebsite – what are you hoping for?
A: We think there is a real hunger for top quality product and service out there. We have customers from around the country who found the old site (that did not search well) and they’ve told us they couldn’t find engravers who could do what we do or they we consistently disappointed with the quality they received. Since we have committed to this level of quality our overhead goes along with it and people looking for the cheapest deals are going to go elsewhere (at least initially). We need to reach a larger audience and need to have ease of check out on site but also just a beautiful site that’s easily searchable where our customers can query us and start a dialog – that’s often where the most fun work comes from. Like the guy who wanted an old work boot bronzed and put on a base with a totally outstanding engraving in front (See our custom section). He is from Maryland and is looking for more old boots to bronze!
566 Hercules Drive
Colchester, VT 05446