Follow Your Passion: Alumni Entrepreneurs

Castleton University welcomed three successful alumni back to campus on Thursday, March 14 for an entrepreneur’s panel in honor of Women’s History Month.

Libby Duane Adams ’84 (Business), Christie Garofano ’98 (Exercise Science), and Jennifer Usher ’93 (Theater Arts) shared what inspired them to create their businesses, the roadblocks they’ve come up against along the way, and how their Castleton education influenced them as a leader. The panel was moderated by Castleton's Director of Alumni and University Relations Courtney Widli '13.

Duane Adams is the co-founder and chief customer office of Alteryx, Inc., a global leader in the data analytics industry headquartered in Irvine, California. She founded the company in 1997 when she was employed for another company that was struggling to grow. Today, Alteryx, Inc. conducts business in more than 70 countries around the world and employees 800 people. Duane Adams is known as the person at her company who knows all of their customers and she is most proud of the moments she hears about her company's product making a difference in the lives of others. Another proud moment, she says, is when she was standing on the podium of the New York Stock Exchange when Alteryx, Inc. went public. 

“There’s no right path. It’s been an amazing journey to try and figure it out and learn something new every day,” she said.

Garofano is the owner of Body Essentials Personal Training and Wellness in Rutland, Vermont. After relocating back to Vermont from Ohio, she began her own personal training business in 2010. While Garofano was able to develop leadership experience while at Castleton, she soon found that there were not enough local resources for women business owners in the region. When she couldn’t find answers, she made them herself. Last year, Garofano teamed up with Rutland Economic Development Corporation’s Erin Anderson to create a Women Business Owners Network chapter in Rutland.

“You don’t ever have enough money or the best plan, but if you work at it, you can make it,” she said. “There’s two things I always tell people: Business ownership isn’t for the faint of heart and that it’s a labor of love.”

Usher can be found in the heart of Downtown Rutland at her shop, Make it Sew, where she does everything from alterations to creating custom wardrobe pieces. After working at a variety of jobs that took her from Ireland to Alaska and back to Vermont, Usher began to think about a career that would leave her feeling fulfilled. The day before Hurricane Irene ravaged the state in 2011, Usher opened the doors to her shop, and she has been a fundamental part of the revitalization of Rutland. 

Usher gave advice for those who are thinking of starting their own business.

“Just trust yourself, that you have something to offer that no one else does,” she said. “For me, what I do is not just clothes; it’s something I made that didn’t exist before.”