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  • Brattleboro Reformer

Brattleboro Woman Named Young Entrepreneur of the Year

by Danny Monahan

Small Business Administration

As much as teenagers are told they can be

whatever they want when they grow up, so few

go on to fulfil their dreams.

For one Brattleboro woman, she is exactly what she

wanted to be when she was a teenager, the owner of a

successful Vermont catering company.

“In high school we all had to write down where we

wanted to be in 10 years. I wrote, I hope to own my

own catering company by the time I was 28. And I

ended up doing just that,” said Gretchen Hardy, coowner

of Hardy Foard Catering in Brattleboro, Vt.

Hardy is named the 2017 Vermont Young Entrepreneur

of the Year by the Small Business Administration. The

annual award is presented to business owners under

35 who have had success in sales, profits, increasing

jobs, having innovative business methods and

demonstrating entrepreneurial potential necessary for

economic growth.

Always interested in cooking, Hardy decided to attend

the Culinary Institute of America in New York to turn

her interest into her profession. From there she went

out west working at different restaurants in Colorado

for a few years. However those restaurants weren’t

hers. She made the decision to move back East to open

up a place of her own.

In October 2010 she started HardyFoard catering along

with Bo Foard, a self-taught cook. The partnership was

forged through Gretchen’s brother and Foard’s son,

who were friends. He knew of Gretchen’s desire to

start her own business, so before she left for Colorado,

Foard told her if she ever returned east she should

look him up because he too may be interested in

starting one with her. Upon her return, that is exactly

what she did.

Within a few months Hardy Foard found itself

catering an inauguration party in January for former

Governor Peter Shumlin at the Brattleboro Museum

and Art Center with more than 350 guests.

The catering service has been growing ever since.

After that, business took off so quickly by the next

year the catering company started a food truck.

There they served walk ups and did all the catering

out of the truck. But that too was short lived because

Hardy Foard outgrew the food truck due to catering


Today the catering company and new restaurant,

The Porch, are located in a former sandwich shop on

Putney Road in Brattleboro.

“People thought I was crazy when I told them where we

were moving to. Several businesses had occupied that

space prior to us moving in and all closed their doors

rather quickly. But we’ve had a lot of success here. We

are able to do more events and more weddings, and

we’ve grown a steady stream of regulars who eat here

in the restaurant,” said Hardy.

During the spring and summer those regulars have

to sometimes find another place to eat because Hardy

Foard’s catering schedule gets so busy the restaurant

has to close its doors on weekends. This past year the

company catered 49 weddings in Vermont and New

Hampshire in addition to a number of parties, events,

memorials and business lunches.

Hardy Foard has bootstrapped this entire endeavour,

not taking on any loans or debts. If Hardy Foard can’t

afford to do something they simply don’t do it, Hardy

says. In the last five years, Hardy Foard’s sales have

increased by at least 30 percent annually and much of

the sales have gone back into the business.

When the business started it was only her and Foard.

Now it employs up to 25 employees at the height

of catering season and has three catering teams to

accommodate different events held on the same day.

The company has a low level of attrition. Five staff

members who were hired when the Porch opened are

still working for Hardy today and are considered the

core of the business. Hardy believes she would not be

where she is today without her loyal staff members.

“Gretchen takes pride in hiring, training and retaining

local Vermonters. She pays a liveable wage and she does

not discriminate. Gretchen has given opportunities to

those who are in recovery, or on parole, or part-time

working moms and young cooks,” said Melany Kahn,

wife of Foard and mentor to Hardy.

The business is also a family affair. Many friends

and relatives have worked for the catering business

including Hardy’s brothers and sisters. The latest

family member to come on board is Nathan LaChance,

Hardy’s husband. “My husband Nate has joined us and

helps out with everything from building projects to

running to events when I forget something. He does it

all with great endearing enthusiasm,” said Hardy.

While there are some challenges to being her own

boss, Hardy says diligence is her greatest asset. “There

are certain parts to owning a business that are very

hard. Hiring is hard, bookkeeping is hard, business

in general is hard for me, but hard work and long

hours have always been easy for me. I just don’t mind

coming in here each day, and it’s pretty much every

day,” she said.

As for the future of Hardy Foard, she hopes one day to

own her own event space so she can offer catering and

a venue for weddings and various banquets.

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