K.C. Walsh, Simms Fishing Products

K.C. Walsh, Simms Fishing Products

K.C. Walsh became a die-hard fly fisherman at 9-years old. As an adult, he began looking to acquire a company in the Rocky Mountain West. Specifically, he wanted to make Montana home.

“The reason I wanted to live in Montana was pretty simple,” he said. “When I was 12 years old, I came up here with my grandfather on a fishing trip on the Bitterroot River. It was one of the best experiences of my youth, and after that trip I wanted to live in Montana someday.”

Walsh’s wishes came true when in 1993 he acquired a fly fishing manufacturing company called Simms Fishing Products.

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Dana Holzer, lead designer at Montana Bones. (Photo by Alexandria Klapmeier)

Dana Holzer, lead designer at Montana Bones (Photo by Alexandria Klapmeier)

Scott Bouma grew up in Lincoln, and his wife, Rayna, grew up in New Zealand. The two met, got married, and knew they eventually wanted to move back to Montana. Three years ago, they opened their coffee roasting company, Caffeic, in Helena.

“I love Helena because it’s a great community,” Rayna said. “We’ve gotten to know so many great people. It’s small enough that you can really feel like you belong and you see people in different places and you’re like, ‘Hey, I know you!’ I really enjoy that community aspect of it. We have four kiddos, and it’s a great place to raise kids. We’ve lived in another town in Montana, but we decided Helena is an awesome place to raise a family.”

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Hillary Folkvord grew up in a family of Montana entrepreneurs.

Hillary Folkvord, daughter in a family of Montana entrepreneurs

Hillary Folkvord

“One of my first businesses, when I was 5, was selling vegetables outside my parents’ deli,” Folkvord said. “When we were 10 we started a business called Wheat Bouquets. My claim to fame was Martha Stewart bought 10 bouquets.”

Folkvord’s entrepreneurial spirit has continued to grow as the manager of two boutique hotels in Gallatin County.

While Folkvord’s parents have grown the Wheat Montana farms to fame, the eldest Folkvord and her sister, Haylee, have embraced the hospitality industry. Their most recent project was the RSVP Motel in Bozeman which includes a cafe called The Farmer’s’ Daughter. Folkvord said it’s in a new area of town that they’re banking on being developed as the city continues to grow.

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Alan Moore, XY Planning

Alan Moore, XY Planning

Although Alan Moore grew up in the South, he followed his dreams of colder weather up north.

“I started chasing snow,” Moore said with a laugh. “I did a stint in North Dakota and then went to Milwaukee…It’s cliche but when I came out on vacation (to Montana) and saw Bridger Bowl, I just never wanted to leave.”

Moore and his family settled in Bozeman and since 2014 has helped financial planners with his company, XY Planning.

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2018 Early Stage MT winners

2018 Early Stage MT winners

After months of refining their business plans and pitches, Sellout from Bozeman and Superior Traffic Services from Missoula tied for first and were named the 2018 Early Stage MT winners on Saturday.

“It feels pretty amazing to have won Early Stage MT,” said Joel Martin, one of the founders of Sellout. “We have been struggling to figure out how to pitch this product the best way for the last couple of months ever since the accelerator ended. For it to finally come together this week and to bring it to the stage, we were so nervous for the presentation. But it’s gratifying to have won and to have done this whole process with the amazing core we have.”

Both of the Early Stage MT winners will receive $25,000 and have the opportunity to present at the Frontier Angels meeting in October. Alosant from Bozeman finished third overall and will also present to the Frontier Angels, a Montana based angel fund group. The other businesses that participated in the Early Stage MT showcase included Elation, WebBuy, Elebase and Cardsetter.

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A screenshot of how Quiq allows customers message businesses

A screenshot of the Office Depot website shows an option to text to the company, which is a feature available because of Quiq.

There wasn’t one particular “ah-ha” moment for why Mike Myer wanted to create Quiq, his messaging software for businesses.

“People text each other,” Myer said. “Why not text a company?”

Myer start contemplating that question in 2014, and since the launch of Quiq (pronounced “quick”), this Bozeman company has become a competitive player in the software messaging world.

How Quiq Allows Customers Message Businesses

Quiq is a software for businesses that allows customers to message companies in a variety of ways, such as texting on your phone or Facebook Messenger. Some of Quiq’s 80 customers include Office Depot, Pier One, and Overstock.com. The most common way users use Quiq is through text, said Quiq’s Chief Marketing Officer, Dani Wanderer.

“A few years ago or even yesterday you might have made a call to a company’s customer service organization, or you might have emailed them,” she said. “This is just an additional channel that consumers can use to reach out to companies. You just text message your product questions, support questions and connect with an agent. The thing that is nice about text messaging is you don’t have to make a phone call, put your life on hold, or get put on hold. You don’t have schedule time out of your day to get help.”

Now that companies are becoming familiar with messaging platforms, Wanderer said they are focusing on best practices for implementing messaging platforms in businesses.

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Dean Folkvord and the Wheat Montana legacy

Dean Folkvord, Wheat Montana

Dean Folkvord didn’t want to go to Hawaii.

“The first part is, we were young and he didn’t want to go,” said Dean’s wife, Hope. “I had to beg him to go on this trip to begin with. Finally he said, ‘Quit nagging, we’ll go.’”

But it was on this trip during a visit to a pineapple farm in the mid 1980’s that the idea for Wheat Montana was born and the Folkvord family’s entrepreneurship journey began.

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Check out these five stories from across Montana that highlight entrepreneurship, the high tech sector, and everything else that makes Montana great!

woman by creek in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

1. ATG introduces Big Brothers Big Sisters Kids to Programming

Last Saturday, children with Missoula’s Big Brothers Big Sisters programming dipped their toes into the world of computer programming thanks to Advanced Technology Group (ATG) in Missoula.

During a summer camp, kids learned about the basics of programming using a program called Scratch. This program allows users to create characters to interact with their surroundings, objects, or other characters. The visual language can be connected in blocks, telling characters or objects to move, make sound, display text in a speech bubble, and a variety of other options.

Each pair of students created their own animations with aid from ATG employees.

Click here to learn more from the Missoula Current.

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Check out these five stories from across Montana that highlight entrepreneurship, the high tech sector, and everything else that makes Montana great!

picture of a headframe in Butte, Montana

Headframe in Butte, MT

1. ATG Conference Kicks Off in Missoula

For the second year, Advanced Technology Group (ATG) in Missoula will host its conference called Quote to Cast with the theme of Teaming for Success.

This conference attracts the top national and international tech leaders for a dive into what ATG does. The company expects 170 people to fly in from 31 states and nine countries, including Africa, Australia, Canada, France and Germany. Keynoting the conference will be Peter Coffee, the vice president of strategic research for Salesforce.

“It’s a marketing industry event, and the idea is to generate new ideas,” said Tom Stergios, senior vice president of strategy and corporate development with ATG, in a Missoula Current story. “These conferences happen all over the world, typically in Las Vegas, San Francisco or Chicago. There’s a few boutique events, but we’re trying to break the mold and do something different.”

Click here to read more about the event.

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Editor’s Note: The following article was written by Paul Gladen, Director at Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana.

Paul Gladen, Director at Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana

Paul Gladen, Director at Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana

Who do you think of when someone says entrepreneur? Steve Jobs? Oprah Winfrey? Elon Musk? Mark Zuckerberg?

These are certainly the kind of folks Wall Street and the media like to lionize for changing the world on a massive scale. But these entrepreneurs and their businesses can perhaps seem at odds with the Montana way of life, especially in light of recent controversies at corporations like Facebook.

All of this raises the question of what a Montana entrepreneur and a Montana startup might look like. What kind of startup activity is achievable AND desirable in Montana?

To begin to answer these questions let me tell you about some of Montana’s latest cohort of emerging entrepreneurs: Jenny Sheets, Ari Ronick, and Sara Boughner.

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