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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

New Prescott-based online clothing business opens - Boutique 511

Considering that Veronica and Beth Wittek have together organized family trips and holidays, it seemed only natural they would go into business as well. In fact, the question is why it took so long.

“I’ve been wondering that myself,” Veronica said. “It’s our first project together but we’ve known each other for 10 years and have done a lot together with our families.”

Veronica and Beth husbands are brothers and Veronica, who is originally from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, has lived in Prescott for the past eight years and works in the financial department at 3M while Beth is a stay-at-home mom living in Edwardsville, Illinois in the St. Louis metropolitan area (or the “East-Metro” as it’s called on the other side of the Mississippi River). However she travels to Prescott often to visit for family gatherings and other occasions.

It was during one such family trip, in fact at a water park in Dubuque, Iowa in the late summer of 2016 with their husbands and children that they decided to go into business together. They’ve put together an online business called Boutique 511 which sells women’s clothing and accessories. Boutique 511’s website is at www.boutique511.com.

The “511” part of the name was the month and date the company was formed.

“It’s a name that’s very close and personal to us,” Beth Wittek said. “We plan on selling different, fresh styles of clothing that can encompass a night on the town to a night on the couch.”

To avoid the overhead of a traditional brick and mortar store, the Witteks made the decision to purchase items from vendors and sell and promote them online. Their initial batch of product they purchased at a vendor’s market in Chicago called Merchant Mart.

“It’s very good quality and style and their made in the U.S.,” Veronica said. “There are a lot of these markets all over the country and they accommodate small businesses like ourselves.”

But Boutique511 doesn’t plan on being just online. The Witteks hope to take Boutique 511 from virtual to real through various festivals in the area and region too.

“That’s the beauty of the market in that you can have direct service to the customer online,” Beth said, “but also rent a 10x10 space at a fair or festival and put in a pop-up shop for persons to stop by and look at and touch and feel our clothing and accessories as well."

Such products include dresses, t-shirts, tank-tops, sweaters, leggings and shorts in various along with purses and jewelry.  They plan on shipping products from both homes.

“Shipping is going to be our biggest cost to control and hope to keep things affordable for ourselves and our customers,” Beth said.

What motivated the Witteks to take this plunge into the business world was a simple desire not to let an opportunity passed by

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do, something in the back of my head I’ve thought about and yet I’ve put off before,” Veronica said. “I wanted to be a part of something I can do on my own and passionate about and now is as good a time as any to give it a try.”

But Veronica said she’s very happy to have Beth as a partner in this venture.

“She’s very creative and organized,” Veronica said. “We realize we’re different people with a nine-year difference in age and it’s something we talked about all the time. But we know each other well enough to work together and it’s great that now we talk about five times away about ideas and plans and the business in general and it’s wonderful!”

Beth said was just as excited to start a business with her sister-in-law and draw the extended family closer together.

“I would love to have my kids spend their summers up here with their family and say they’re from this area, that’s important to me,” Beth said.  “Having a 9-to-5 job would restrict that. And I’m ready to do more for my family and have something to be involved with together.”

Inquiries for more information about Boutique 511 can be emailed at support@boutique511.com.

Veronica and Beth Wittek and their products from their new business Boutique 511

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sen. Baldwin pushes for reforms to fix VA Choice Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin today announced her 3-point plan to fix the VA Choice Program and help Wisconsin’s veterans access care more quickly in their communities.

“Wisconsin veterans have made it clear to me that the VA Choice Program is not working as well as it needs to for them to get the care they’ve earned and deserve,” said Senator Baldwin. “That is why I am fighting to make immediate changes to the Choice Program in Wisconsin, pass bipartisan reforms to cut red tape and expedite care, and increase transparency and accountability in the VA’s care.”

  1. Cut Red Tape to Expedite Care
Senator Baldwin is fighting for bipartisan reforms to cut red tape in the VA Choice Program to allow veterans access to more timely care in their own communities. The bipartisan Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act, authored by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, would make the VA the primary payer under the Choice Program, reducing veterans’ out-of-pocket expenses and aligning the Choice Program with the VA’s other community care programs.

The bipartisan Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act would accomplish this by:
·        Improving the sharing of medical records between the VA and community providers in Choice to better coordinate care for veterans and connect them to care in a timelier manner.
  • Reducing confusion and out-of-pocket costs for veterans.
  • Allowing community providers to be reimbursed in a more rapidly – which would reduce providers’ frustrations and ultimately bring them back into Choice, further increasing access to care for more veterans. 
The Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act has strong bipartisan support with Senators Tester and Baldwin being joined by Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), John Boozman (R-AR), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Manchin (D-WV), John McCain (R-AZ), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) in support of the legislation.

  1. Hold VA Contractors Accountable
Senator Baldwin has cosponsored the VA Performance Accountability and Contractor Transparency (PACT) Act, which increases oversight and accountability of VA contractors. The PACT Act would make the details of VA contracts over $100 million public and require the companies being contracted to report their progress to Congress. This will apply to the VA-HealthNet contract, as well as other major VA contracts.

The PACT Act would:
·         Require VA contracts to include a plan of action and milestones, along with measurable metrics tracking cost, schedule & services rendered.
·         Necessitate contractors to document their progress and provide performance updates to the VA, Congress, and certain oversight committees.
·         Allow the Secretary of the VA to have the authority to penalize contractors if their performance does not meet stated standards.

The PACT Act is authored by Senator Tester and in addition to Baldwin is cosponsored by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Patty Murray (D-WA).

  1. Streamline the Appointment Process
Senator Baldwin, in response to concerns expressed by Wisconsin veterans, has called on the VA to make it an immediate priority to shift scheduling duties away from HealthNet to local Wisconsin VAMCs.

In a letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin today, Senator Baldwin wrote, “Delays in HealthNet’s appointment scheduling and their inability to process timely payments are at the top of complaints I hear from veterans and providers. For the last two years, I have worked with veterans and VA staff to address concerns with access to timely care through the Choice Program… While the VA works to modify its contract with HealthNet, I urge you to allow Wisconsin VAMC staff to begin scheduling appointments for veterans participating in the Choice Program as soon as possible.”

This failure of the Choice Program appointments process was highlighted when the largest health care provider in rural northern Wisconsin, Aspirus Health Care, opted to no longer accept Veterans Choice referrals. Additionally, Senator Baldwin has spoken with local VAMC staff in Wisconsin who’ve expressed a strong desire to take on Choice scheduling to ensure the veteran patients they personally know and care for are served well.

A summary of Senator Baldwin’s plan to fix the VA Choice Program is available here.

An online version of this release is available here

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