BRATTLEBORO >> Ask Barbi and Paul Schulick how to build an upstanding Vermont business and they rewind back four decades to their yearning to sit down.

"We met as meditation teachers," she recalls. "That's what we thought we were going to do for a living."

But as they focused on calming the mind, they thought about caring for the body. Trying and failing to make and market herbal extracts in their garage, they moved on to found a $100 million vitamin and supplement company — New Chapter — that multinational-mega-manufacturer Procter & Gamble bought in 2012.

Fast work? The Schulicks instead credit their success to the time they took to stop and think, they explained at the start of the sixth annual Slow Living Summit, running Thursday through Saturday at downtown's River Garden and nearby Marlboro College Graduate Center.

Some 150 people are attending the public event that seeks, according to one presenter, "Sustainable, Local, Organic and Wise" solutions to worldwide social, economic and energy problems.

The 50 speakers at this year's summit are spotlighting "Food & Ag Entrepreneurship: How to Succeed in Business by Slowing Down" — even if their presentations have crept up on the calendar so no longer to squeeze against its sister program, June's annual Strolling of the Heifers.

Vermont food and agriculture is big business, with production, processing and distribution annually generating $4 billion and 13 percent of all jobs.


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New Chapter is a good example — although it didn't start out that way. The Schulicks opened a small shop in the late 1970s and began bottling their own products in the early 1980s. Herbs may have benefits, but consumers weren't buying them by the bushel. People, however, would purchase vitamins, spurring the couple to package them together.

"When you combine them," he said, "the whole is more than the sum of the parts."

"It was a new chapter," she added.

Starting at home in 1986, the couple moved the business to its own storefront and then its own building. At the same time, they befriended Dr. Andrew Weil, who appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live" and recommended New Chapter's "inflammation response" product Zyflamend.

"Literally the next day and week," Paul Schulick said, "we had $1 million in sales."

By 2012, the company was producing 80 products, leading a majority of its investors to decide to sell to consumer goods titan Procter & Gamble, makers of such household brands as Ivory and Tide.

The Schulicks, hearing many townspeople lament the loss of local control, say the sale has benefited their business.

"For us it's always about reaching more lives," she said.

"Every day P&G touches 3 billion people," he said.

"They are standing behind non-GMO and organic," she said.

New Chapter is now exploring probiotic products. The summit, for its part, is continuing Saturday, starting with an 8:30 a.m. program on "Plant-Based Medicines: Can Vermont and Our Farms Be a Leader?" with Gardener's Supply founder Will Raap and finishing at 3:30 p.m. with speeches from Google community affairs leader Matt Dunne and nationally renowned restaurant consultant Clark Wolf.

People can learn more by logging onto the summit's website, www.slowlivingsummit.org.

"You have to slow down and really consider," Barbi Schulick concluded. "Then when the fast times come, you're nurtured for that."

Kevin O'Connor is a Reformer contributor and VTDigger.org correspondent who can be contacted at kevinoconnorvt@gmail.com.