Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes, and every business plays a critical role in keeping Montana’s towns vibrant. The Treasure State consistently ranks in top five in reports from the Kauffman Foundation in rates of business ownership and business sustainability.
In our Q and A series, we’ll introduce you to some of Montana’s brightest and best entrepreneurs from all corners of the state. These businesses are involved in a variety of industries including hospitality, retail, and food.
Join us we travel to eastern Montana and meet Cathryn McIntyre (Reitler) from Glasgow!
1. What is the name of your business?
Cat’s Corner Studio Cat’s (also known as Cathryn McIntyre)
2. Are you natives of Montana? If you are, where is your hometown and why do you love it? If not, why did you decide to make Montana home?
From the time I was a little girl growing up in Southern Saskatchewan (45 min north of Plentywood), Montana was the closest place we could visit that was “America”. My entire family are dual citizens, and my parents were from California; they raised us girls on the family homestead, preferring that over raising a family in the city.
But every chance we had we would slip across the border to do American shopping and every summer we drove down to California for vacation and to pick up clay for my father’s pottery business. During these trips, I fell in love with Montana as a girl, and as a woman I moved to Glasgow as soon as I finished my undergraduate degree from UNLV. I wanted to study at UM for my graduate degree, which I did after marrying a man from Glasgow.
In the past 12 years, Glasgow has been more of a home to me than any other place I’ve lived. The community has supported my artistry and helped me flourish both personally and professionally. Now, my sister and her family and my parents all also live here. It is home and the only place we can all ever imagine living.
3. How long has your business been in operation? What does your business do?
I have worked as an artist since moving to Glasgow in 2006; I produced and sold several paintings a year while working at various other jobs until June 2016 when I found myself busy enough to quit all other work and go full time. I’ve been full time ever since then!
4. What has surprised you about owning your own business?
The difference that I experienced in choosing to dedicate myself full-time. The financial rewards have been incredible, even in the first two years of business. In addition to that, I have been surprised by the continued demand for my artistic abilities. I once thought that if I were full time I would run out of orders and clients, would “work through” the list. As it has happened, in producing more work, my followers have then requested more work. The more I work, the better I become at my craft and the more I find myself branching out artistically.
When I was about to move to Glasgow from UNLV one of my professors told me “you are committing professional suicide; you will be one of those artists who could have been something then you moved to the middle of nowhere and fell off the map”.
I have been surprised by how extremely wrong that professor was; surprised by the force of support I found in this little community; surprised by my own adaptability and resourcefulness. Now, I often wonder IF I would have been able to become a full time working artist from any other place. The force of support I have found in this small town is such that I could not have failed unless I had given up on myself.
5. Why should an entrepreneur start a business in Montana?
Because of the community support.
In Glasgow, the support and the “tightness” of the community has been what I would think was the “make or break” difference for me professionally. Although I was not born or raised here, I feel a sense of belonging in this community that surpasses anything I have ever known. If a small town community in Montana decides you are “one of them”, they come to approach you with a sense of ownership. I have the feeling that the community is proud of me, proud to call me “theirs”, and I have an awareness that this bond has developed over the past decade.
As I have proven to the community that I am in this art thing for the long haul they have returned my commitment by being my most loyal patrons and continuing to support all of my endeavors. I think that if an entrepreneur is willing to work hard and get to know a place and its people, in Montana the community support in small towns is such that you cannot fail.
6. Why did you decide to start your business?
It is my passion. When my family relocated to Las Vegas in 1999 (from the farm in Saskatchewan) I earned a full ride fine art scholarship to UNLV. That scholarship awakened me to the passion I had for art, although none of my schooling in Las Vegas or at UM taught me how to convert that passion into a livelihood.
After I finished school at UM and began living full time in Glasgow in 2010, I tried my hand at running an art gallery downtown and also tried working for the state of Montana (OPI) creating curriculum for art education. During the years that I worked at these other things, I continued to produce art for exhibition and sale but was not producing enough to work exclusively as an artist. I was not confident in myself or my abilities, not confident that my passion ran deep enough to dedicate myself to it exclusively.
In 2016 the man who would become my father-in-law (and a longtime art patron himself) asked me point blank what I loved the most, which was undoubtedly art. His blatant questions gave me the courage to listen to my own heart and at that point, I quit all my other work and put myself into art 100 percent, in the summer of 2016. From that point on, I have been challenged in every possible way, but the rewards have far surpassed the challenges and there’s no turning back.
7. What are three pieces of advice you would give someone about starting a company in Montana?
1. Be willing to think outside the box. I have had to come up with some pretty creative ways to make money, especially in the times before I was able to paint full-time. I have taught workshops and art classes of every possible type to supplement my income; I have partnered with local schools and colleges to create different learning opportunities. There was NO ONE to give me advice on how to succeed at this thing, in particular, how to succeed at in a small town; but I was able to identify the needs of the community and find ways that I myself could address those needs.
2. Listen to the locals. You can’t come into a place, as an out-of-towner, and expect to impress your values and ideas on them. You can expose them to some of what you have learned elsewhere, but on the whole, you must be willing to listen to the opinions and values of the local place you do business.
3. Use technology to your advantage. We are in a unique age, in having the resources to connect with others across many miles; although connectivity isn’t key in my business at all times it has certainly helped. It has helped me connect with professional peers from larger urban locations and has helped me share my art and the place I call home with the larger world.
8. Anything else you would like to add?
Be prepared to have your convictions tested. If you want to have a successful business, you must be prepared to lay it all on the line. To suffer financial hardship and to have the depth of your passion tested. But if your convictions truly run deep, the challenges you will meet only validate your choice further.
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