April and Azur Moulaert

April and Azur Moulaert, as seen on the Vermont Tortilla Company’s social media.

A unique approach to business development is needed in these unusual times, and two Shelburne businesses are receiving help – virtually – from LaunchVT to develop despite the troubled economy and the need for social distancing.

LaunchVT addresses two primary needs of an emerging startup community: access to early capital and resources – aka money – and connections with smart and ambitious people. The organization’s website explains that each member of its cohort “will leave the accelerator with a refined and polished pitch deck, a Launch Report (executive summary), and extensive connections to local founders, advisors, investors, and service providers.”

During the nine-week accelerator program, the seven entrepreneurs in the LaunchVT cohort, including research and development company Resonant Link and wholesaler Vermont Tortilla Company, will work with a dedicated coach, advisors and each other to refine their business models, work through their most pressing challenges and hone their value and message.

They will participate in peer sessions, office hours with local business advisors and workshops with content experts.

Vermont Tortilla Company

This business was founded in 2015 by April and Azur Moulaert, “food loving ecologists turned small food producers.”

The Vermont Tortilla Company’s mission is simple but right in line with the Champlain Valley’s reputation as a leader in sustainable farming and food practices. They use locally sourced organic corn to support local farmers and participate in a food system that values sustainable agriculture.

Corn for the tortillas is 100% Northeast Organic Farming Association certified, grown by Adirondack Organic Grains in the Champlain Valley in Essex, New York. The company also plants, harvests, and sells local grains including organic corn, organic hard red winter wheat, organic spring wheat, organic soybeans and organic sunflowers.

Resonant Link

In a less mouth-watering but no less exciting direction, the second Shelburne business in the 2020 Launch VT cohort is Resonant Link, a research and development company focusing on a resonant coil technology that drastically reduces cost and increases the performance of wireless charging.

Founded by Grayson Zulauf, Aaron Stein and Phyo Aung Kyaw, the company is partially funded by the National Science Foundation. The resonant coils are wireless, which makes them a viable option for use in many fields, including consumer electronics and in medicine – these coils may help medical devices implanted in people’s bodies maintain power for longer at lower cost.

“We have a groundbreaking invention, and we’re figuring out how to use it,” said developer Aaron Stein, “these are the world’s smallest, most efficient wireless chargers.”

LaunchVT has helped the company connect with the community of inventors at the University of Vermont, identify potential customers and learn about resources available to start-ups.

Resonant Link recently moved to Shelburne from Hanover, New Hampshire, to be closer to other scientists and entrepreneurs who could help them take their technology and make it a marketable product.

When asked if they had thought about tech ethics while creating and developing the coils, the Resonant Link founders said they are interested in reducing carbon emissions, and that although they haven’t spent much time thinking of potential ethical pitfalls or specific social good applications of their product, they are enthusiastic about an upcoming module through LaunchVT designed to help businesses develop a mission statement.

They want to “think through how their tech is impacting the world.”

Unique among start-up accelerator programs, one of the resources LaunchVT offers is weekly hour-long meetings, covering, among other things, how to create a community mission statement.

To learn more about these local start-ups, tune in to LaunchVT’s Virtual Demo Night on July 23, where the cohort of founders will pitch their businesses to investors and the public. Learn more at launchvt.com.

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