Spotlight on Geoffrey Sewake

Name: Geoffrey Sewake    

Pronouns: he/him/his

Current Town: Peacham

Years in VT: 9

Industry: Hospitality & Beer Manufacturing

Business name: Whirligig Brewing

Business contact:;

Tell us a bit about your background before arriving in VT.

I was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Washington State and California. I’m multi multi-generational Japanese-American. I grew up in mostly white suburbs where I was one of only a few BIPOC. I went to undergrad at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and worked in LA for a short period to be closer to my family, before going to Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vermont. I moved to NYC after law school and met my wife, who is from Waterford, Vermont. We were married in Greensboro, Vermont, and after some time in NYC, decided to move back to Vermont to raise kids around dirt and trees. 

What do you enjoy about being a business owner in VT?

I love the ability to create something that speaks to me and my experience. In the beer industry, it’s hard to open a brewery without going “big”, and as someone who didn’t have access to significant capital when I was building the brewery, I feel very lucky to have chosen Vermont as our home. Vermont seems to be different, it’s able to support small scale breweries.

What are some challenges that you’ve faced as a business owner since living in VT?

I love Vermont and wouldn’t have created my brewery anywhere else in the world. That said, Vermont does seem to have an administrative paperwork challenge that should certainly be addressed. I also am aware of the challenges facing BIPOC business owners from microaggressions, explicit racism, tokenism, access to capital, access to networks, etc.—all of which make running a business and enjoying the Vermont quality of life to be more challenging than those who do not face those issues.

How have you worked to overcome the challenges?

 I talk to my local representatives and administration officials as well as various business associations and I serve on a number of organizational boards. I try my best to offer my experience to others through speaker engagements and providing feedback when solicited by the state and others.

What opportunities do you see for your industry in the future? 

As one of only a few BIPOC faces in my industry and in business leadership state-wide, it is a little disheartening to see how un-diverse our community really is. It would be great to see more BIPOC in my industry as leaders, owners, brewers and game-changers. I feel the same about businesses in general across Vermont. I would also like to see a BIPOC-focused leadership and mentorship program for small business owners and community leaders in Vermont.

In what ways could your community or the state of VT support BIPOC businesses? 

Network development, access to leadership in meaningful ways that create change that is not tokenism, supporting professional development, access to capital, assisting the creation of new businesses, assisting in the growth of existing businesses.

What advice would you have wanted to receive about being a VT entrepreneurs/business owners before arriving?

Perhaps understanding how few BIPOC you may see on any given day, and the difficulty in developing networks with others who may share certain experiences outside of the predominant culture. For someone who needs people, especially those that might share a history, culture, experience or background, being BIPOC can be difficult, especially in a rural community.

Are there other things you’d like to share with the Vermont BIPOC community?

We host an art gallery, focused on Vermont BIPOC artists. Currently, we are blessed to have Harlan Mack, an amazing artist out of Johnson, Vermont. I encourage folks to come and see his work. He’s also featured in a number of other galleries across the country. We are always interested potential programs or activities where our ally-ship or partnership with other BIPOC might uplift and improve the lives of other BIPOC in Vermont.

Why are you a member of Vermont Professionals of Color Network?

Having a network of folks who may share a common experience is really important to me.

Share this post: