More than 200 Montana High School Students Visit MSU for Entrepreneur Day
The College of Business (CoB) hosted Entrepreneur Day in the fall, for the third time, yielding a record high participation by Montana high schools. More than 200 students and teachers, representing 13 Montana schools, traveled to Bozeman for a day of education and motivation to study business and entrepreneurship.
The 9th annual Entrepreneur Day was held on Thursday, November 1, in the Strand Union Building on the MSU campus. Students from Anaconda, Augusta, Bozeman, Broadwater, Butte, Cascade, Columbus, Great Falls, Laurel, Livingston, Shields Valley, and Simms were welcomed to Montana State University (MSU) by Susan Dana, associate dean of academic affairs in the CoB and Jennifer Dunn, with MSU Admissions, before students jumped into an interactive workshop in the morning.
In the past few years, participating students were asked to develop business concepts and present an elevator pitch, but this year, student groups were asked to look at three entrepreneurial business scenarios and use critical thinking skills to come up with potential solutions to problems. The first case dealt with an upfront payment for a job too large for the struggling start-up company. The second case addressed waste removal options as they relate to different cost savings and environmental concerns. The third case focused on ethical decision making related to hiring employees for a one-person consulting business. The top four teams presented “how” and “why” they decided to address each issue. The top two teams were deemed the winners of the workshop.
Gary Bishop, who led the interactive workshops and coordinated the CoB student volunteers, said, “We wanted to change things just a bit this year so returning students would continue to walk away with a sense of accomplishment as well as having a bit of fun at the event. It was great to have these students come up with workable solutions to these entrepreneurial business issues and be able to justify their answers.”
After lunch, students and teachers were able to enjoy an informative keynote presentation by Sarah Calhoun, owner of Red Ants Pants, headquartered in White Sulphur Springs, Montana.
In her presentation, “Red Ants Pants, More than a Pair of Pants,” Calhoun talked about her experiences with men’s work pants and how her difficulties with them led to a new business concept for women’s workpants and a company based in a rural town in Montana. From there she discussed her business model, unique marketing efforts, and core business values. She talked about how she has a storefront as well as a website, how important the high-touch and personal component is for her business, her unique Tour de Pants and matching ants connection, and how important quality and 100% customer satisfaction is to her. She also told the students that if they start businesses, they need to know what aspects of the business they are or aren’t willing to compromise on. For Calhoun, Red Ants Pants is and always will be a “Made in the USA” product.
Many students and teachers said Calhoun’s presentation was one of their favorite aspects of the event–the chance to listen to a determined young woman entrepreneur who had an idea, took a risk, and succeeded was inspiring. Calhoun’s experiences showed students that starting your own business may be difficult, but it is doable and worth it.
After the keynote, students wrapped up their day with a creative and interactive workshop led by CoB students. “The New Product Launch,” an entrepreneurial challenge, pushed students to creatively problem solve and work together as teams. Students were tasked with developing an innovative egg delivery “vehicle” utilizing limited resources within certain parameters. Groups came up with very innovative designs and enjoyed “launching” their vehicles off a 10-foot drop to test the vehicles.
Regina Wood, a teacher from Livingston’s Park High School, has been bringing her students to Entrepreneur Day every year since 2003. She said, “Besides the business lessons that tie into what they are learning in class, they get to interact with other high school students, they get to present in front of a large crowd, and work on some real-world concepts. This is just a different experience that they wouldn’t get in a classroom setting.”
Dave Stukey, with CM Russell High School in Great Falls, said his students enjoyed being in Bozeman and on the MSU campus, experiencing the college atmosphere. He added, “They loved the speaker from Red Ants Pants. They enjoyed interacting with other students from around the state. I enjoyed the opportunity to bring my students and appreciated the efforts of the staff and students to make this a positive learning experience for all involved.”
Originally started through a small SBA (Small Business Association) grant, Entrepreneur Day is now funded in part by Boeing and the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship. For more information about the event or how to participate, please contact Audrey Lee at email@example.com or 406-994-7026.