A New Twist on the American Dream
Text by Holly Matkin | Photography by Sara Young & Jinny Jandron
For centuries, those who chose to make Montana their home have been inspired by the allure of Big Sky Country’s boundless opportunities. From the days of Native American tribal living, to the exploration of Lewis and Clark, to the advent of agriculture, mining, tourism and service industries, we have embraced the notion that hard work and dedication are the cornerstones of success.
Sixteen years into the new millennium, technology continues to advance at an unprecedented rate. In many areas of our state, populations have increased, landscapes reflect years of settlement, and competition for consumer dollars is ever-present.
While the challenges facing today’s entrepreneurs may be different than those of our predecessors, the core principles governing their drive to succeed remain unchanged. Past and present, Montana’s business leaders are innovative, adaptable and determined, propelled by the allure of boundless opportunity.
The Mobile MarketplaceProviding a service that solves a problem for prospective clients has long been proven as a viable business concept. The challenge often lies in identifying the problem itself, as well as in developing novel ways in which to present solutions to that problem. Fortunately for us, these are just the areas where many of our newest startup businesses shine.
For Helena entrepreneur Molly Casey Holahan, determining the purpose of her business, Fiona’s Mobile Boutique, was simple. “Looking good shouldn’t cost so much,” she emphasizes. “So I wanted to create a fun, friendly, comfortable environment with high-quality clothing at affordable prices.”
Molly decided to implement her business as a mobile boutique, adding a divergent flair for her customers. With the help of her family, Molly turned a large truck into a sleek specialty shop filled with hand-selected items from her favorite vendors. “Right now we are the only mobile boutique in town, so that has been really exciting,” she explains.
The boutique’s mobility allows Molly to “pop up” at locations throughout the area, including Sip-and-Shop events at Helena’s Gulch Distillers. Fiona’s Mobile Boutique is even available for group bookings, allowing customers the convenience of a private shopping experience with their friends. “I love helping people with personal shopping, too,” Molly says.
In Great Falls, Montana Game on the Go owner Lindy Rueb has also opted for a mobile business concept – albeit with a much different customer base. Hunters turn to him for their wild game processing needs, a service he can perform nearly anywhere. “We have a mobile trailer that will travel to your house or location and cut up your animal for you that day or the next day,” he explains. In addition to providing standard cuts of steak, roast and burger, Montana Game on the Go offers a variety of sausage. “There is never any doubt that 100% of what is returned to the customer is their own harvested meat.”Civic responsibility is also important to Montana Game on the Go. “I am a provider for Hunters Against the Hungry, so hunters who are looking to donate their game meat can have it processed through me at no cost to them,” Lindy says. “They deliver it to me, and I process it and get it to the food bank.”
Although Lindy and Molly advise they may consider adding traditional brick-and-mortar store locations for their respective businesses in the future, both enjoy the flexibility of being able to take their services directly to their customers. “You also save on advertising,” Lindy notes, “Because you are driving your work around and making it more visible to people in different locations.”
As many successful business owners will attest, the importance of online presence has become more relevant than ever before. Ember Briles, owner of Lee & Lea Boutique in Great Falls, originally planned to operate her women’s fashion boutique solely as an online venture.
“Throughout the years, I planned what my boutique would offer, the brands that I enjoyed, and I continually thought of names and locations,” Ember advises. “Being a curvier woman myself, I felt that I could offer pieces that fit multiple body types. We offer hand-selected clothing and accessory pieces for women in sizes ranging from small to 3XL, and are hoping to add children’s and preteen in the next 6 to 8 months.”While working with Gecko Design in Missoula to create her business website, Ember decided to open her storage location a few days per week in an effort to sell the spring and summer inventory she had intended to market online. “Much to my surprise, things just took off!” she says. “We were bringing in new inventory on a weekly basis just to keep up with demand, and customers enjoyed having new options every time they came in.”
The World of Social Media
Social media is a marketing superpower, and any forum that helps facilitate interaction between service providers and customers is understandably desirable. Lindy, Molly and Ember each maintain Facebook accounts and websites for their businesses. Molly and Ember also utilize Instagram, and Molly says she is “trying to get the hang of Twitter.”
“Social media is amazing!” Ember exclaims. “I started posting things about what was happening with planning, purchasing products and any additional updates. I even asked followers what they’d like us to bring in, which generated interest,” she recalls. “This allowed me insight to see if I was on the right path with my wholesalers.”
A Word of Advice
As they embark on their various business ventures, our entrepreneurs are quick to offer support to others considering their own startups. “My daughters are as much of a driving force to starting this business as was my own desire,” explains Ember. “I wanted them to see that you need to always follow your dreams, regardless of your fears of failure or what others think.”
“Any small business startup is difficult, “agrees Lindy, “But the main thing is to not get discouraged and don’t let others’ doubt and negativity ruin your day. You are your own boss. Own every choice and learn from it.”
“If you’re passionate about it,” says Molly, “please don’t give up.”
To learn more about these featured businesses, look for them on Facebook, Instagram or at shopfionas.com, montanagameonthego.com and leeandlea.com.