Erica Houskeeper and Dave Barron

Pluck, Erica Houskeeper Communications, and Happy Vermont
Husband and wife team Dave and Erica run 3 businesses between them, Pluck, Erica Houskeeper Communications, and Happy Vermont. According to Dave: “Pluck is the design studio arm. Erica runs Erica Houskeeper Communications which is photography, writing, and content development. We overlap on those with certain clients. Happy Vermont is a travel blog that Erica started about a decade ago. We’ve kinda done a few evolutions of redesigns, we retooled it most recently this summer. Erica started a podcast and we just added e-commerce products in the last couple of months; so it’s more of a media project than a blog now.”

How has COVID impacted business?
Dave: “There was a lot of uncertainty in the spring leading into summer. A lot of periphery projects got back-burnered really quickly as some of our clients reassessed and buckled down. But now, a lot of our clients have started to reassess and regroup. Since the landscape has changed, a lot of our projects have been more digital. Things are still evolving”

Erica: “I do photography for certain Erica Houskeeper Communications clients… so of course, a lot of those projects went on the back burner in the early months of the pandemic.”
In those instances, Erica had to shift depending on what people were comfortable with and what was safe.

A lot of Erica and Dave’s clients have either pivoted or pushed more into the digital realm since the pandemic began. “In general if people weren’t full force into digital or the web portion of their business they’ve let it slide for a while. I think this was an eye-opener for a lot of business owners that you can’t afford to ignore the digital side of your business. I had a lot of people reaching out in June because they needed an e-commerce store really quickly,” said Dave.

Why work at VCET when you could work from home?

Dave: “Because we have a young child! We don’t have a dedicated office and we live in a very kid-friendly neighborhood, so our daughter has 8 or 9 friends a stone’s throw away from us. We call them the Peanuts gang because it’s a group of like 8 kids, and you can hear them coming down the sidewalk. When you don’t have that separation between work and home, it can just bleed over.”

Erica: “You just get into a different mindset coming here. I’m here to work, I’m not here to put away laundry or figure out what we’re gonna do for dinner. I’m always multitasking in my head at home whereas when I’m here I can focus and get things done.”

Biggest win this year?
Erica: “I think we have all had to become more versatile in ways, to figure out how to work through this and maintain an income. I feel like I’ve been able to try things outside of my comfort zone whether that’s starting a podcast for my Happy Vermont site, or working with some bigger clients and really ‘going for it’ because we don’t know what the future holds. I worked with some really exciting clients this year, like Bees Wrap. I did a photo project with the Vermont Department of Forests and Parks, and I’m starting to work with Blue Cross Blue Shield.”

Dave: “We’ve done a pivot with services into video and audio production. It was something we had touched on a little bit but it’s quickly becoming more of a core focus. We decided to take a lateral sidestep to see if it works. Our test projects went really well and now more and more of our clients are approaching us for video. Whether it’s larger-scale productions or smaller scale social media projects, the opportunity is there. I think it leads back to people wanting to do more content development digitally to make that connection to their customers, clients, or to whoever they are trying to reach.”

Favorite takeout?
Taco Gordo – “They have great margaritas to go”
Pizza 44 – “They are our go-to at least once a week”