#StartupsEverywhere: Dorset, VT

#StartupsEverywhere Profile: Brooks Addington, CEO, Tost Beverage

This profile is part of #StartupsEverywhere, an ongoing series highlighting startup leaders in ecosystems across the country. This interview has been edited for length, content, and clarity.

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A Toast to Entrepreneurship

Brooks Addington is the CEO of Tost. TOST is an all natural dry sparkling non-alcoholic beverage created to reach every occasion when the consumer is looking for a substantive beverage that is non-alcoholic, yet all natural, low calorie, and meaningful. Headquartered in VT, with production and shipping in two other states, Brooks has a perspective on varying ecosystems. His goal for his company over the next five years is to grow; he hopes policymakers will continue to develop laws to encourage entrepreneurship and simplify regulatory processes.

Tell me about you. What’s your background? Why did you start Tost?

I have a background in global financial services. About 10 years ago, I started to get involved in small businesses as an investor, advisor and partner in some cases. I got involved in TOST because the brand has a unique value proposition in an underserved segment in the market.

Why’d you get started in Vermont? What makes Vermont an ideal place to start a company?  

We moved to Vermont as a lifestyle choice. It’s proximity to Boston and NYC was a factor. We can travel to those cities when needed.

What’s the most exciting or important development that has happened to the Vermont ecosystem in the last year?

On a state level we are seeing more focus and interest in supporting small businesses and driving migration to the state. On a micro level, I am seeing more people moving to Vermont and working remotely. Technology is providing flexibility.

Since you work in Pennsylvania, Vermont and New York - how does doing business in those states differentiate? What is the same?

For a startup differences that appear quickly are startup costs. For example, the cost of registering a business or the cost of raising capital in different states is noticeable. Another difference is the ecosystem’s ability to support small businesses both from the public sector and private sector.

I cannot comment on Pennsylvania since we are simply producing in the state. We are involved and engaged in New York and Vermont. I can say that New York has more programs to support businesses and more people to do the same, whereas Vermont is more intimate and it’s easier to navigate and meet potential business partners quickly.

What is the biggest challenge your business faces?

Being heard, being seen, being tried.

How involved are your local government representatives in the startup space?

There is a great deal of interest from them in trying to foster a vibrant business community and a recognition of the importance that startups have. Everyone wants to support startups, the question is how and in what meaningful way.

From a policy perspective, do you have any wishlist items for the startup ecosystem?

Streamline the process to get access to information. The Small Business Administration does a decent job at this. Simplify the cost to get up and running with operating agreements, legal and regulatory filings, etc.  Startups grow when founders are making and building their product/platform and then selling/marketing it. Startups do not grow when founders are navigating taxes, filings, and regulatory requirements. Anything to simplify the process and level the playing field is a positive and increase startup growth which equals job growth

What is your goal for the next year? The next 5 years?

Grow, grow, grow

Engine works to ensure that policymakers look for insight from the startup ecosystem when they are considering programs and legislation that affect entrepreneurs. Together, our voice is louder and more effective. Many of our lawmakers do not have first-hand experience with the country's thriving startup ecosystem, so it’s our job to amplify that perspective. To nominate a person, company, or organization to be featured in our #StartupsEverywhere series, email jen@engine.is. Give us your feedback here.