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He turns interests into profitable businesses

Blessed with an entrepreneurial spirit, Bill Forsyth ’70 makes the most of every opportunity. The owner of PhotoGarden photo labs in Burlington and Williston, Vt., Forsyth transformed a love of photography into a thriving business. In addition, he owns Harrington Brothers, a coffee distributorship, and Climate Care Self-Storage, an indoor, temperature-controlled storage facility.

Of his student days, Forsyth says, “We entered Lafayette with crew cuts and ended two weeks after Kent State.” He credits those turbulent times with his ability to discover opportunities in change. A problem-solving class honed those skills and taught him to “let the solutions evolve,” a key to his success in business development.

Turning hobbies and interests into profitable businesses empowers business people, Forsyth notes. Money can’t be the only motivation, nor can catchphrases, because they won’t withstand the inevitable day-to-day troubles that arise in modern business. He defines the true entrepreneur as the person with “a rumbling inside” that goes beyond mere process. Even within established business and institutional structures, he believes the individual with an entrepreneurial spirit makes a way where there is none.

Building a business from scratch doesn’t mean “jumping off the end of the dock,” though. All owners of start-up businesses worry about long-term security and failing to meet goals, but Forsyth suggests that success comes from a bit-by-bit approach, tackling one problem at a time.

When Harrington Brothers, originally developed as a grocery wholesaler, faced a slew of new competitors in an already crowded market space, Forsyth and his business partner repositioned the company. Coupling strong brand recognition to a niche market, they relaunched as a coffee distributor, increasing their profits in a less competitive portion of the food industry.

“Don’t say no to new ideas,” Forsyth says. “Recognize how much risk a situation poses, find what the opportunities are, then mesh those with your personality. You’ve got to follow your heart.”

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