Welcome to Big Sky country. Home to sweeping mountainous landscapes, western spirit, and a staggering amount of successful businesses.
In 2013, 2014 and 2015, Montana was named the top state for entrepreneurial activity, according to the Kauffman Foundation’s Index of Startup Activity. And there’s no question as to why. Not only are independent-thinkers valued in the Treasure State, but the environment is conducive for entrepreneurs to flourish.
As the largest city in Montana — and the largest metropolitan area within 500 miles — Billings has it all. From a strong workplace, ranked university, and pro-business climate, Billings has all the resources an entrepreneur could need. (Check out a more extensive list of all the reasons Billing is great for business here.)
But don’t just take our word for it. We’ve found five Billings small businesses (in diversified sectors) that have found impressive success in recent years, thanks, in part, to the city they call home.
Three oil field engineers with years of experience in the Bakken founded GTUIT in 2011, after developing a process that captures and processes flare gas: an innovative process that saves energy and reduces emissions. After a successful launch of their prototype, the company received an equity investment from Caterpillar Oil & Gas in order to expand. It has seen staggering profits ever since. In 2015 they earned $10.9 million in revenue, growing 1,894 percent over three years and was Montana’s fastest growing company in 2016 (and the 203rd in the country, according to INC magazine).
2. C.K Mack
The real estate investment company that began as a partnership between Mack Schicktanz and his mother, Linda, launched in 2012. C.K. Mack has seen growth since then by tapping into the talented labor force in Montana, recruiting a team with a combined 30 years in real estate.
3. Thirsty Street Brewing Co
The brainchild of entrepreneurs Shea and Jill Dawson, Thirsty Street Brewing opened their doors in 2016. In one year, they surpassed their financial projections and created seven full time and two part time jobs. While not originally from Montana, the two have found a home in Billings and relish the support of the community. In fact, they credit some of their success to the mentorship of the regional director of the Small Business Development Center, Dawn Johnson, who helped them prepare a bank ready business plan.
4. Bumps ‘N Bundles
The children’s boutique opened in 2014, but with the help of Montana’s Small Business Development center relocated and subsequently expanded in 2016. Because of the SBD, founder Becky Salyer, updated her business plan and was able to secure a loan. Her sales increased 113 percent from 2016 to 2017; that same year Becky was recognized as one of Billing’s 40 under 40.
Colt James Ranches found their footing after completing a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2017 for their new product, Wagyu Beef Sticks (rallying support from their community). Over 200 people backed the company, raising over $15,000. Founder, Colter DeVries, is a 5th Generation Montana Rancher and lets Montana’s beautiful scenery (his ranch sits at the base of the Beartooth Mountains) inspire his ethically-raised ranching style and his commitment to protecting the land.
And there you have it — five Billings businesses that relied on the enthusiastic support of the community, availability of mentors, hard-working labor force and beauty of the land to launch their now-successful startups. In Billings, the entrepreneurial spirit is as fierce as the river that runs through it.