The last thing you think about when tying the knot is laughter, but it was the first thing on Natalie Miller and Nathan Hartswick’s minds. The couple exchanged their vows and launched their business, Spark Arts, on the same day in 2011. Their comedic timing has been the driving force behind building a good marriage and developing their community. Over the past four years, their passion has grown, and has led to Burlington Vermont’s only comedy club.
We met up with Nathan and Natalie at the old armory building on Main Street in Burlington. The sounds of buzzsaws and hammers echoed over the 6,000 square foot future home of The Vermont Comedy Club. Nathan and Natalie beamed with excitement and nerves as they brought us on a tour of the space.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity to perform comedy in the Burlington area so we started producing our own stand-up and improv shows and holding classes to build a scene organically through Spark Arts,” said Nathan. “It got to the point where we felt we needed a home for it and knew the scene could support a full-time venue.”
Over the last two years, the couple developed a new business plan to fill this need while providing unique opportunities to the greater Burlington community. This includes jobs, entertainment, exposure, and partnerships with businesses like Butch + Babes in developing a menu, and Opportunities Credit Union for financing.
The Small Business Development Center, as well as Kortnee Bush, owner of Butch + Babes in the Old North End of Burlington, Vermont, recommended Greg Huysman, Business Development Manager at Opportunities Credit Union to assist Natalie and Nathan with their business plan.
“Greg was awesome,” said Natalie. “Our business plan is more than just ticket sales and food and beverage revenue streams and he really grasped the whole concept and was excited about what we were bringing to Burlington. It was different than any other meetings we’ve had with lenders.”
“Greg was involved and engaged from the very beginning,” added Nathan. “Opportunities was really pulling for the comedy club and jumped through hoops to make sure we got what we needed to make it happen.”
“I would say that if you’re looking to get a Small Business Loan in Burlington, Opportunities Credit Union should probably be your first stop,” said Natalie.
A benefit of Opportunities Credit Union is that it provides small businesses owners like Nathan and Natalie a sounding board, and a chance, to turn their unique vision into a reality.
“Unlike other lenders, Opportunities had the vision to see that our artistic business would also be a profitable business,” said Natalie.
“At Opportunities, we could tell they understood why this was good for Burlington, and they looked at our track record and history and said, ‘this could work,’” said Nathan.
Not only did Opportunities believe in Nathan and Natalie’s business plan, they also saw how it would help the local economy.
“Having a space like this is so important to growing the scene and building the community,” said Natalie.
“That’s important to us,” added Nathan. “We both grew up in Vermont and want to contribute to the state in a way that’s positive. We love what we do and feel that it’s important. This space gives us the opportunity to reach more people.”
“It also provides a lot more opportunity for audiences around here,” added Nathan. “Right now, unless you’re a die-hard comedy fan, people don’t have the luxury to know that there is a space for comedy in the area.”
Natalie and Nathan’s ultimate goal is to provide the community with access to comedy. “Everyone should be able to laugh and have the opportunity to see these shows,” said Nathan. “That’s always been our mission.”
The Vermont Comedy Club, set to open on November 18th, will provide Burlington with 11 shows each week. These acts will be comprised of local talent as well as comedic legends such as Gilbert Gottfried and James Adomian. Seating up to 175 patrons, there will be food and drinks available as well as classes, kid’s camps, and Vermont’s Funniest Comedian Contest.
Visit www.vtcomedy.com to order your tickets today!
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