For 20 years, the entrepreneurial, sleeves-rolled-up women of the Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network have helped people in the North Country become economically self-sufficient.
With networking, classes on business development and marketing, grants for business needs, computer access, incubator office space — and two retail locations for local products — the organization helps launch and strengthen small businesses.
WREN, headquartered in Bethlehem, has grown from a 12-person pilot program to an organization with 1,100 members. The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation has long provided WREN with operating support. Executive Director Marilinne Cooper said that support is critical because “it can be used as needed, in the places where it’s needed.”
Now, with help from the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund, WREN has gone around the mountain to Berlin.
The recent grant allowed WREN to hire Laura Jamison to expand services to Berlin. WREN started the Local Works Farmers’ Market in that city — and the market quickly became one of the state’s largest.
Magdalena Randall sells her European-style breads there, and plans to open a bakery in Lancaster.
“Opening the farmers’ market in Berlin was a big thing because it was a community that really needed sources of fresh food,” Randall said, “and for little vendors like me, to have a place to sell is very important.”
WREN offers classes, tech tutoring and Jamison is working on the concept of a “Makerspace” for Berlin — a community work space with shared tools.
“WREN in Bethlehem turned an otherwise depressed Main Street into something energetic and vibrant,” Jamison said. “I think we have accomplished the same thing here in Berlin: the vibrant farmers’ market in the summer changes how we see ourselves.”
TO LEARN MORE, VISIT WWW.WRENWORKS.ORG
This story originally appeared in the Foundation’s 2013 Annual Report.