Montana Public Radio

Can Do: Essential Business Lessons

  • Hosted by Arnie Sherman

Can Do, MTPR's podcast on business and entrepreneurship hosted by Arnie Sherman is in its fourth season, and we’re expanding. This season will feature the same informative interviews and the lessons Montana business owners and entrepreneurs have to share. But times are changing. There’s a major election in November and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change how business is done.

The main focus this season is on the here & now. How does a business survive in today’s volatile economy? How can you transition your business or start a new one? What can you do to make sure your finances are in order? We’ll be asking these questions to business experts in Montana and around the country.

Listen to Can Do at www.mtpr.org or wherever you get your podcasts. New episodes are published every other Monday.

Havre Company Thrives By Building A Better Sports Bra

Feb 21, 2020

Enell Sports Bras is a successful womenswear company based in Havre, a small college town in north-central Montana.

For founder Renelle Braaten, necessity became the mother of invention. As an avid volleyball player, she needed bras designed for active full-figured women and couldn’t find any. So, Renelle took on the challenge of designing one herself. In 1993, with the help of her mother, a skilled seamstress, Renelle designed a patchwork prototype.

Brigitta Miranda-Freer
Courtesy of Brigitta Miranda-Freer

Imagine pulling out a new board game's instructions and discovering that the normally skinny pamphlet runs thousands of pages and spells out the rules of the game from soup to nuts. That's what an international trade agreement looks like: it's comprehensive, it's years in the making, and millions of people's livelihoods depend on it.

Mayor Engen On The Vibe Fueling Missoula's Growth

Jan 26, 2020
Missoula Mayor John Engen.
City of Missoula

What makes a city ripe for entrepreneurship? Is it the fruit of well-conceived planning, a combination of luck and circumstances, or all of the above?

Missoula, Montana’s tech scene has boomed in the last decade, bringing a steady population increase, immense opportunities, and growing pains. Perhaps no one has a better perspective on this growth than Missoula’s current Mayor John Engen, who joins us on this episode of Can Do: Lessons From Savvy Montana Entrepreneurs.

Host Arnie Sherman talks with Second Set Bistro's Matt “Raz” Schneider (L) and Josh Snider (R).
Peter Hoag

Combine a lifelong passion for food and improvisational music in just the right balance, and voilà, you serve up Second Set Bistro. Established in 2019, the Missoula, Montana restaurant is inspired by the creative improvisation of the second set of a music performance.

Erika Peterman - Sova Partners

GatherBoard is a software platform designed - a little ironically - to get people off their phones and into concerts, classes and community gatherings. It's a kind of Squarespace or WordPress for online events sites: small-to-mid-sized communities and companies purchase its license and design their own customizable, monetizable events calendars. To date, 44 communities have licensed it, and Missoula's Molly Bradford, GatherBoard's co-founder and CEO, sees faster growth ahead.

Dr. Mary Stranahan (L) is the founder of Goodworks Ventures. Dawn McGee (R) is CEO of Goodworks Ventures and president of the High Stakes Foundation.
Courtesy

"My desire is to have broad-based community ownership of Montana businesses; because it makes sense. These businesses are profitible, they can pay a dividend. And so that's really where our arrow is pointed, but there's a lot of interim steps between starting and getting to that destination," says Mary Stranahan, founder of Goodworks Ventures.

Founded in 2007, Goodworks Ventures, a Missoula, Montana impact fund, currently has a portfolio of 35 companies in science, food, sustainability and technology. The company is the dream of Stranahan, a longtime Montana philanthropist and retired physician. Goodworks Ventures invests in early-stage  Montana businesses that they believe contribute to the greater good and enact positive change.

Paul Gladen
courtesy

If there is something happening in the entrepreneurial world in Montana, Paul Gladen probably has something to do with it. In 2008, Paul came to Montana armed with a degree from Oxford University and more than 15 years of experience working with Arthur Andersen and his own firm Muzeview.

In 2009, Paul helped launch Hellgate Venture Network, a Missoula-based local entrepreneurship forum. When the university was chosen to be part of the prestigious Blackstone LaunchPad, a national effort to provide viable pathways to entrepreneurship, Paul was the “go to” choice to head it up.

Jeff Fee, CEO of PatientOne.
Courtesy Jeff Fee

After more than 25 years spent running hospitals in Tennessee and Montana, Jeff Fee jumped into entrepreneurship with the 2018 launch of PatientOne. In February of 2019, the startup attracted $1.2 million in venture capital from several funds, including Revolution’s Rise of the Rest seed fund, co-founded by former AOL CEO, Steve Case.

On this episode of Can Do: Lessons from Savvy Montana Entrepreneurs, Jeff Fee talks about what’s new in digital medical care and the challenges of jumping mid-career into the world of startups.

S&K Technolgies CEO Chad Cottet.
Courtesy

Any investor I know would be ecstatic to see a return of $40 million on an initial investment of just $150,000. But that is exactly what has resulted from the seed money that the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes invested in a tribally-owned startup in 1999, and which has remarkably operated debt free ever since.

S&K Technologies has grown since then to a family of five companies of more than 900 employees with offices throughout the U.S. and around the world. From its headquarters on the Flathead Reservation, nestled in the Mission Valley in rural St. Ignatius, Montana, the company manages a complex government acquisition business that includes a landmark $4.2 billion contract from the U.S. Air Force.

In 1975, the Muralt family moved from Kansas City to Missoula, Montana, taking over a bankrupt 4-lane truck stop on the outskirts of town. Walt Muralt, just 9 years old at the time, began his business career by mowing the weeds outside the family start-up.

27 years later, Walt took over the operation of the travel plaza with energy, determination and an optimistic entrepreneurial spirit. Since then he has expanded the original family business, adding restaurants, a casino, a hotel, a truck repair station and even a beer ice cave.

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