Q&A with Paul Dame

Vermont Young Professionals President and owner of Shepherd Financial

Paul Dame

Paul Dame

They say it takes about five years to make a business successful. Paul Dame hit his five-year mark as an Essex resident this summer, and, sure enough, has begun reaching some of his goals.

He put together his second campaign this year, vying for one of the two seats in the Vermont House representing Essex Junction. In the recent election, he earned enough votes to replace Democrat Linda Waite-Simpson.

Dame runs Shepherd Financial, a small finance company in Essex Junction, which he opened almost four years ago. He also acts as president for Vermont Young Professionals. The little spare time that remains, he spends with his wife, Lore Dana Dame, and their young daughter Nadia.

Dame grew up in Addison County and is a graduate of Otter Valley Union High School. He spent two years at RIT studying software engineering, but felt like a tiny fish in a huge pond.

“I don’t know what I was doing there,” Dame said in an interview in early September. So he transferred back to the University of Vermont and graduated in 2005, after which he was a student teacher at Burlington High School for a brief period.

“I miss being in front of a classroom,” Dame lamented, but added: “I’m still in education, just on a one-on-one basis. Education is one of the most important areas of finance.”

After graduating, Dame worked for about three years as a bellhop at the Hilton, where he met his wife. The two were married on Aug. 2, 2009.

Dame elaborated on his financial career and involvement in VYP.

Q: How did you get started in the financial field?

A: In 2009, I worked with a national firm. I realized I needed to be independent.

So, on Jan. 4, 2011, I started Shepard Financial. Over 95 percent of my clients live within 10 miles of this office.

Q: How do you educate your clients on finances?

A: I hold seminars where about 30 people come for an hour and a half class. We talk about assumptions that people make and clarify misinformation.

Lots of the advice you hear is generic; just like most people have 20/20 vision, but most people may not be you. I help customize an individual’s financial plans.

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Q: When did you join Vermont Young Professionals?

A: Mark Hall founded VYP in 2009. I’ve been on the board since the end of 2011, and was elected president in March 2014. There are six members on the board. Board members meet the second Monday of the month. It’s 100 percent volunteer.

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Q: What is a professional?

A: If you think of yourself as a professional, you are a professional.

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Q: What is young?

A: Members on the board are currently under 40-years-old.

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Q: What are some of VYP’s goals?

A: One of the things we’re looking to do is branch out around the state, and not just target the Burlington area.

There are lots of other young professional groups out there. VYP is trying to position itself as a hub to list new groups starting and job postings specifically for young employees, and host events. There are lots of opportunities to start conversations and connections at the town level.

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Q: What challenges is VYP facing?

A: We’re all making this up as we go along.

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Q: What is a misconception about the group?

A: We are not affiliated with the Vermont Chamber of Commerce although there is one chamber employee on the board.

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Q: How many people are connected to VYP?

A: There are no dues-paying members. We have 520 people on the email list.

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Q: What is a successful event VYP hosts?

A: The Vermonter’s Ball. About 150 people come in “Vermont formal wear.” In 2012, we held it at Main Street Landing and last year it was at the Hilton.

For more information on the Vermont Young Professionals visit www.vermontyoungprofessionals.org.

— Elsie Lynn