Small retail’s biggest champion

When Trudy Trombley, owner of Truly Trudy’s Boutique in Stowe, Vt., was named NRF’s America’s Retail Champion of the year last summer, she was caught by surprise. But she immediately did what comes naturally to her — focus on the employees and people that support her. “I recovered enough to acknowledge how deeply appreciative I was for everyone’s support and encouragement in starting my businesses,” Trombley said, “for how fortunate I am to have great employees and that I can keep advocating for small businesses, especially for women entrepreneurs in Vermont and nationally.”

The America’s Retail Champions program celebrates small business owners who advocate on behalf of the industry, sponsoring 50 retailers to travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Retail Advocates Summit, where they learn about policy issues and meet face-to-face with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

NRF is accepting nominations for the 2018 class of America’s Retail Champions through July 20. We spoke with Trombley to learn more about what it means to be a champion and the importance of advocacy in her community.

"Having won this award means I’m even more encouraged to speak the truth about what it means to be a small retailer."

Trudy Trombley

You are the 2017 America’s Retail Champion of the Year. What does that mean to you and your business?

Having won this award means I’m even more encouraged to speak the truth about what it means to be a small retailer. We work hard every day, we are responsible for providing many students their first jobs and we offer our communities financial support through nonprofits while providing meaningful employment. We create vibrant, living downtowns that our neighbors enjoy. My various businesses employ a range of people from grandmothers to a high school sophomore and everyone in between, and that means my entire staff gets the benefit of working across multiple generations with everyone sharing their stories and experiences with each other. There are certainly challenges — regulatory, state and federal laws, financing, finding qualified employees to hire, the constant pressure of increased costs and more. But I still enjoy going to work every day and overcoming these challenges to succeed in retail!

Why should a small business owner participate in the America’s Retail Champions program?

Small business owners should participate in all aspects of NRF. The people I’ve met over the last several years through NRF are all bright, inspiring entrepreneurs who are excited about retailing. We share successes and challenges. No business ever escapes challenges and it’s vital to know there are other owners out there who have faced the very same thing and have advice for getting through whatever the issue is.

I also enjoy talking about my commitment to my employees. My employees are like my kids. They’re all different and each one has strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes they each need support and praise, and other times they need directness. I enjoy seeing each of them grow and move into positions of more responsibility and higher rewards, whether with my businesses or some other opportunity. I think NRF and the members of the Small Business Retail Council all agree that our employees are the most valuable part of our companies and our interaction with other members of the council provides us with needed feedback and ideas for supporting our employees the very best we possibly can.

"Lawmakers often don’t realize the full impact of proposed legislation and I want to do my part to provide the business community’s perspective."

Trudy Trombley

Why is advocacy important to you?

I enjoy advocating for small business locally, at the state level and in Washington. Lawmakers often don’t realize the full impact of proposed legislation, and I want to do my part to provide the business community’s perspective.

I have been able to influence local zoning issues that would have had a terrible impact on my business, and I’ve been able to support state initiatives that support employees and environmental issues. I am proud to have been a part of the effort to equalize the collection of sales tax across all sales platforms. I enjoy going into legislative committees and just speaking plainly and truthfully about the topic being considered. Often, I’ll be stopped in the halls of the Vermont State House by various legislators wanting further information on a bill. I believe that if I don’t speak up, then my perspective will never be known — so it’s up to me to be involved.

Nominations for NRF’s America’s Retail Champions program are open through July 20, 2018. Click here to nominate a retailer.