Onward and Upward: Interview with VCET’s Phoebe Lo

As we say goodbye to our highly regarded and appreciated Director of Operations and Culture, Phoebe Lo, we get to sit down with her and reminisce about her incredible work at VCET.

What initially attracted you to work at VCET?

At the time, I was coming off of a long trip abroad and was looking for something completely different than what I’d done in the past while offering an environment that I felt like my skill set could harmonize with. I was initially attracted by how dynamic this role seemed to be, that every day might be different, and was excited by the opportunity and challenge of growing a community in an industry that was brand new to me.  

What is the biggest challenge you had to overcome during your first few days/weeks/months at VCET?

Meeting everyone! For a long time, I felt like I was “catching up,” trying to make personal connections and remember everyone’s companies, talents, and dynamics. Like any good community, it takes a lot of care and investment for this to build, but when it does – it’s worth it. I am so honored to have been able to make a connection with each and every one of our amazing members and partners. 

What are you most proud of (out of all the projects you’ve offered to VCET)?

Definitely the Vermont Startup Collective. When chatting with my friend, Flip Brown, back in the summer of 2020, and getting introduced to the platform Mighty Networks, I could never have imagined this network would grow to what it is today. There have been so many special moments, connections made, lessons shared, and it has completely outgrown my expectations. It is truly a digital representation of some of the magic that happens day-to-day here at VCET in our physical space. I’m excited to see where it goes in the future!

What would you say is the best thing you’ve learned working in our community?

To narrow it down to one thing would be impossible. I’ve learned how to think boldly and strategically, how to write more effectively, how to build partnerships, and probably most importantly, how to play ping pong!! Did I think back in 2017 that I’d absorb all there is to know about antique caster wheels, fluorescent light fixtures, bat control, countertop refinishing techniques, and espresso machine maintenance?! Definitely not!

In what ways do you think you’ll continue to pay it forward?

Being so deeply involved in the community here has become a way of life. This role has gotten me completely in the rhythm of building community relationships and I hope to continue to expand on that more broadly.

Where do you see yourself in the next couple of years and how do you think your time here has contributed to your success? 

Surrounding myself with entrepreneurs and their advocates over the past four years has prepared me to start something of my own. Burlington is where it started and will always be my “home base,” and now I feel more confident to expand my business to wherever it takes me! Vermont is such a wonderful incubator for small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs. I will be forever grateful to now be on the receiving end of that. 

Tell us about your business, “Golden Our Studio”! How far have you come in the past couple of years and did you ever see it gaining this much traction?

Golden Our Studio was my “pandemic baby”. I never imagined that painting a mural down on Intervale Road in the summer of 2020 would turn into something much more. Flourishing out of a time when I wanted to feel more in tune with myself, I was reinvigorated by something that brings me immense joy – creating! Since then, I’ve had the honor of painting residential and commercial murals for projects large and small, taking canvas commissions, and being a part of my first ever gallery exhibitions. Pinch me!! In the spirit of the name, Golden Our, I’ve been able to collaborate and co-create with numerous other artists and business owners. This ethos, that we are more golden together, guides me in so many ways!

How has art shaped and influenced your life?

To say I am intoxicated by color would be an understatement. I have always been sensitive to the energy that color and art can bring into a space. I am so thrilled to now have the opportunity to breathe some joy and levity into new spaces through art. Creating has also become a spiritual thing for me. Our natural, resting state as humans is one of creation. We are constantly creating new cells, new ideas, new perspectives. Practicing art is my way of honoring this flow and allowing my spirit to play in this lovely physical plane of ours!

What is your favorite piece of art you have made so far?

Beyond the mural I did for Poppy Cafe / Cafe Mamajuana (think fun, tropical explosion) I did a portrait of my dad back when I was in college and for some reason, I painted a large foot coming out of his neck. We like to laugh about that together!

Did you ever imagine it would come as far as it has? What do you think has personally contributed to the success of your business?

Absolutely not! My attitude this whole time has been one of no expectations and taking one day at a time. I plan on continuing until it doesn’t feel fun anymore and here’s to that day coming long into the future! 

What are you most looking forward to “post” your time here at VCET? What are you hoping to dedicate more of your time towards?

I think you should do things that you’re afraid of. I’m looking forward to challenging myself in new ways and walking through some of these fears. Am I afraid of heights? Yes! Am I going to teach myself how to operate a scissor lift? I am!!

What’s one thing you hope to leave here at VCET?

Curating a safe space for this group of individuals to support one another and pay it forward was a true highlight for me. I am so excited to see the heights that this community will reach!

Published and edited by Phoebe Lo with help from Nicole Mattos-Parodi.