Vermont businesswoman turns setbacks into opportunities


“At 35 years old, I had to start over,” she said. “So I decided to start college.”

Vance held down two jobs while pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Southern New Hampshire University. She graduated with high honors in 2018.

Photo: Maria Vance, owner of Cheaptotes, holds up a custom-made tote. Courtesy photo.

Soon after graduation, a former co-worker at the factory offered her a job.

He had started an online business selling blank and custom-printed tote bags, but wasn’t interested in running the day-to-day operations.

“He had me learn everything,” Vance said. “I started learning screen printing and digital printing and was about to learn shipping when he passed away unexpectedly.”

The owner’s family continued running the business with the support of Vance and two other employees.

“In that first year we built a new website and I learned digital art—self-taught on YouTube,” Vance said.

But at the end of that year, the owners…

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