Name: Ita Meno
Current Town: Burlington
Years in VT: 18
Industry: Health & Housing Inspector
Business name: City of Burlington
Business website: www.burlington.gov
Tell us a bit about your background before arriving in VT.
If you wanted to get off the island, there are a few ways to go. My parents both chose to join the military. As a US Colony, Guam citizens joined the US military, so was able to live all over the world. It was amazing. After completing my undergrad, I worked at multiple non-profits including Project Q, an LGBTQIA youth program out of the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center. It wasn’t long before I headed to Vermont.
What do you enjoy about being a business owner in VT?
I’ve worked for the City of Burlington for most of the time I’ve lived in Vermont, in multiple positions. I enjoy feeling connected to the city in which I live and the City in which I work. I love getting to know neighbors, places, businesses, organizations…I feel a part of the ebb and flow of a city.
What are some challenges that you’ve faced as a business owner since living in VT?
While the number of BIPOC folks continues to grow, it’s really hard to forget that I could go days without seeing another BIPOC face. Then, in those moments where it felt acceptable, I was reminded that I wasn’t welcomed. There have been many times, in the course of my work day, where the police have responded to calls of me carrying out my work with the City.
How have you worked to overcome the challenges?
I started to engage in community and organizational dialogue about racial liberation. I decided to make space for folks interested in making space for me.
In what ways could your community or the state of VT support BIPOC businesses?
Pay attention to the types and frequency of complaints made against BIPOC owned businesses. Work to help BIPOC business buy buildings so that they aren’t being evicted from neighborhoods.
What advice would you have wanted to receive about being a VT entrepreneurs/business owner before arriving?
Pay attention to the Zoning and Building Codes. Make sure that any existing violations on the property have been resolved PRIOR to your occupation of the property. And use the growing network of BIPOC residents to grow your business. We all want you to succeed.
What have do you wish others knew about living in VT that you’ve discovered?
There are a lot of Black Lives Matter signs. Trust yourself when people show you who they are, signs are not [going to do that].
Are there other things (events/opportunities/etc) you’d like to share with the VT BIPOC community?
Let’s continue to show up for one another.