Company spotlight: Happy Vermont
Happy Vermont has transformed from a simple WordPress site into a standout tourist resource.
Happy Vermont is an all-in-one resource – featuring articles, events, a podcast, and even merchandise – for locals and non-locals alike looking to connect with the state. Founder and Editorial Director Erica Houskeeper credits the page’s success to its unique approach to coverage.
“Reporters would call me and they’d want to know about Ben and Jerry’s and skiing at Killington,” said Houskeeper, who used to work as the director of communications for the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing. “I was like ‘Oh my god, there’s more to Vermont than that!’ There’s a lot out there and it’s all within a two or three-hour drive.”
Ice fishing on Lake Champlain? The journey of a Vermont cheesemaker? A Rutland artist who paints the town? These are just a few of the stories told on the website.
“I’m always thinking of ways to differentiate myself because now it’s a dime a dozen with travel sites,” Houskeeper said. “What can I give that’s different from what other people are doing?”
Houskeeper, who left her Southern Vermont roots to study journalism in college, regularly populates the website with articles, both short and long form. But she also updates an events page, spotlighting a wide range of programs, from an Antique & Classic Car Meet in Waterbury to a 5k on Tucker Mountain.
Houskeeper also hosts the Happy Vermont podcast, which tells similar stories in a different format. Earlier this summer, she released an episode with Spencer Potter, a longtime Vermonter who created a donation-funded golf course in his backyard in Waitsfield in 2004.
“The six-hole course… attracts golfers from near and far looking for an offbeat and challenging experience,” writes Houskeeper, who visited the course in June.
“Houskeeper has quietly become something of an unofficial state ambassador and a champion for getting off the beaten path,” wrote Seven Days in 2021. “Houskeeper reports with a journalist’s rigor – she was one for many years – and writes with a fan’s infectious enthusiasm.”
Houskeeper’s sidekick is her partner Dave Barron, Happy Vermont’s creative director. Barron runs the website and e-commerce shop, which sells t-shirts, hoodies, and other goodies, among other tasks. (He’s also known for creating the iconic hair-and-glasses Bernie Sanders logo during the 2016 election.)
Houskeeper and Barron say they enjoy the constantly iterative process of running the website and building the Happy Vermont brand.
“It’s not about the money,” Houskeeper said. “If you take a risk and you fail, you fail small, right? And then you learn.”
Happy Vermont’s inception dates back to 2009, following a deeply personal experience for Houskeeper and Barron. After experiencing a miscarriage at 20 weeks, Houskeeper craved community and a creative outlet – enter “Happy Vermont,” a name that blends hints of irony and resilience. By 2011, Houskeeper left her job with the state, allowing her full freedom over her coverage for the website.
The couple, who share a desk at VCET, balance Happy Vermont with their day jobs. Houskeeper is a freelance writer and photographer for nonprofits and higher ed, while Barron has 15 years of experience with design, running the Burlington-based studio, Pluck.
As Houskeeper and Barron continue to explore new avenues, Happy Vermont is an example of how passion and a love for the community can create something unique.
“It’s a question of what we want to do. And then what else is beneficial?” Houskeeper said. “Because we try to look at it through the eyes of either people visiting or people living here. What do they want to see?”
Check out Happy Vermont’s website, where you can find articles, upcoming events, their podcast, and an e-commerce shop.