After weathering Hurricane Katrina and losing her job teaching a distance learning program at Tulane University, Peggy did what any social entrepreneur would do—start a company to help save the planet. Her passion for forest conservation and the Vermont furniture industry fueled her to get this responsible business off the ground.
Peggy was raised by parents who loved animals, especially wildlife. As a child she remembers watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and Marlin Perkins every Sunday night. Marlin was always venturing into exotic places like the African Savannah or the Amazon rainforest, filming wild animals in their natural habitats. Orangutans, gorillas, kangaroos, pythons, lions, tigers, bears…all of it! He would be holding a chimp and talking about conservation. Peggy recounts how much she admired and wanted to be him. Cuddling with a tiger cub, rescuing orphaned bear cubs—what could be better?
Although she didn’t end up majoring in zoology or doing research for Jane Goodall, her passion for wildlife conservation stayed with her. Like most people, she went for a “more practical career” and decided to pursue her passion as a hobby. She visited zoos and natural history museums whenever she could, studied wildlife news in National Geographic, World Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club and other green publications, and poured her support into wildlife conservation non-profits.
Twenty years ago, after spending time studying literature from World Wildlife Fund, Peggy was saddened to learn that all of the big cat species and big ape species were (and still are) critically endangered. A common factor in this problem is habitat loss due to deforestation.
For years Peggy became consumed with trying to figure out how she, one person, could make a difference.
Peggy was approaching her 50th birthday and knew that if she was ever going to truly help save the planet—this was it. So she decided to start a company driven by a mission to save endangered species by conserving their habitats.
Her first attempt was “Kids Saving the Planet” a non-profit environmental education initiative to support rainforest conservation (did you know that half of the world’s species live in the rainforest even though rain forests occupy only 2% of the planet’s surface?).
But she wasn’t able to raise the money she needed to get Kids Saving the Planet off the ground. So her husband Ken helped her come up with a plan for a for-profit company.
And Vermont Woods Studios was born as a way to promote forest conservation by raising awareness about where your furniture and flooring come from.
From a spare bedroom in her Vernon home, Peggy and her husband Ken began selling unique Vermont-made furniture, Surprising even to her, through trial and error, she found a niche.
Founded in 2005, Vermont Woods Studios employs over a dozen people, and in the fall of 2013 opened Stonehurst, a renovated 18th-century farmhouse and barn that serves as the company headquarters and showroom.
To the Vermont Woods Studios team, Stonehurst serves as a place to show customers the direct connection between the forests and their furniture--as the hundred acres of woodland it sits on is a true reflection of the North American forests from which they get their hardwood materials.
Stonehurst is a place where customers can finally see and touch the cherry, maple, oak, and walnut fine home furnishings that they have found on the web.
With the basic building blocks of a brick and mortar store in place, Peggy now looks forward to getting back to her original mission of forest conservation.
Follow our efforts in conserving monarch butterfly habitat in Michoacan, Mexico and see how we're bringing Peggy's dream of forest conservation to life.