Alex Rincon, Jr., known by his friends as “Papu”, always knew he would start his own business someday. It wasn’t until after graduating from Carroll College in 2004, and managing multiple retail businesses, that his business idea began to take shape.
While attending Carroll College, Rincon obtained a triple major, including a B.A. in Business Administration with a special interest in Marketing, Management and International Business; a B.A. in Spanish Language and Literature; and a Multi-Disciplinary major in Visual Arts with an interest in Graphic Design. In his spare time he enjoyed all that Montana had to offer including, snowboarding, hiking, fly fishing and much more. It was this love for Montana’s outdoors and lifestyle, along with his diverse scholastic background, that brought fourOsix to light.
In 2007, Rincon opened fourOsix in downtown Helena, a lifestyle and retail store that promotes art, music, style, forward thinking and Montana living. The name “four ‘O’ six” represents all of Montana, as (406) is the only area code for the state.
In the beginning, Rincon assembled a team of professionals, including advisors from SBA’s local SCORE Chapter to help get his business idea off the ground. With his stubborn “not going to give up attitude” and ample planning, Rincon fashioned a sound business plan and secured the needed funding to launch his business venture.
“Some people see problems- I see solutions for those problems,” says Rincon, referring to the challenges of starting a business. “It took some people time to see and understand my vision for a retail store that is also a lifestyle store and a socially aware business.”
Rincon’s business model has always been to build a successful brand while simultaneously making a positive impact to its local community and economy.
Rincon jokes about not running his business as the ideal for-profit business, but rather tends to run it as a non-profit venture, by investing most of its profit back into the community in and contributes time and resources to local schools, and by organizing & funding art, music and recreation events around Montana.
While maintaining its stance on supporting the community, fourOsix has indeed made a name for itself. While stopped at a stoplight in Montana it wouldn’t be uncommon to find the fourOsix logo on nearly every other vehicle. Due to the success of its own brand fourOsix recently began doing their own on-site screen printing which allows customers the opportunity to customize their favorite fourOsix branded clothing.
Rincon has had a great year, after being named SBA’s Montana Young Entrepreneur of the Year, he was selected to participate in an exclusive event at the White House called Champions of Change. This program highlights stories and examples of citizens across the country that represent President Obama’s vision of out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building the rest of the world through effective projects and initiatives that move their communities forward.
Rincon humbly admits being an inspiration to other people, including the usual younger generation that shops in his store. “I get to talk to my customers about what it’s like to own my own business and talk to them about dreaming big and sometimes just going for it,” Rincon said. “More than just the success of my business though, I love being able to really have passion for what I do.”
During the collapse of the building industry in 2008 and 2009, while other lumber businesses were scaling back and even shutting down, Steve Marks, of Marks Lumber in Clancy, Montana, boldly invested in new equipment. The outcome of this risky business move was the company’s strongest sales figures of the past decade, a 93% net revenue growth in 2010.
As a result of the new equipment purchased, Marks’ capitalized on the devastating Mountain Pine Beetle infestation that took over the forests of Montana and the west. Marks won a contract from the Montana Forest Service for forest fuel treatment of 900 acres and a 10 year 30,000 acre contract from the Bureau of Land Management.
As a third generation timberman, Marks started falling timber on neighboring ranches at age 16. Shortly after graduating high school, Marks started his first business buying stumpage and harvesting timber to sell to mills in western Montana.
Then came the crash of the market in the early 80’s and Marks scaled back his timber business to take over the family ranch. In 1989, struggling cattle prices drove Marks back into the timber business and he officially launched Marks Lumber. Initially Marks Lumber was a part-time venture to compliment the existing ranching operation, but as the demand grew for sawmill products, Steve focused his efforts on building the sawmill operation.
Marks Lumber produces distinctive products including circular-sawn tongue-and-groove flooring, exposed structural beams, colored mulch and most recently, expanded into forest management services. Marks Lumber is a custom mill that prides itself on making products with a “Montana” look that are used in custom built houses across the west.
Through continued innovation Marks Lumber has lasted through the ebb and flow of the Montana timber industry and has overcame obstacle after obstacle. In times where small businesses across the nation are shutting down and laying off employees, Marks continues to grow his business and has never had to lay off a single employee.
Marks Lumber has thrived when the number of lumber mills in Montana has declined by almost half, to less than 20, and is one of the few saw mills left in the northwest to make circle saw lumber.
Marks Lumber’s success can be attributed to Marks’ constant dedication, flexibility and product diversification.
With the attitude of continual improvements, flexibility and innovation, Marks Lumber is poised for continued growth and leadership in Montana’s timber industry despite the continued hardships experienced by others in the industry.
Steve Marks sheer determination and ingenuity is why he is a recognized leader in his market niche in Montana and why he was named Timberman of the Year by the Montana Wood Products Association in 2010.
Steve Marks was named SBA’s 2011 Small Business Person of the Year.
Kim Ormsby, CEO and President of The Natural Baby Company, has been named SBA’s 2010 Montana Small Business Person of the Year.
After being laid off as a corporate exec in 2001, Ormsby started an online retail store called “Montana’s Diaper Store” from her laundry room. Montana’s Diaper Store grew each year and today, it is known as “The Natural Baby Company”.
The Natural Baby Company now carries their own label of cloth diapers, has catapulted the growing industry forward and is emerging as one of the top-selling cloth diapers in the global market.
Ormsby was forced to switch to cloth diapers as her oldest daughter had eczema, a common skin problem that can be exacerbated by the drying capabilities of disposables, as well as the chemicals found in them. At that time cloth diapers were hard to find and Ormsby decided to start the online store and sell her favorite cloth diaper brand, plus some toys and other infant and toddler products. She became passionate about cloth diapers, had tried about every kind on the market, knew their shortcomings and was eager to find a solution.
Soon Ormsby found herself, along with a local seamstress, designing and making a better cloth diaper. She added this diaper to her online store. They also invented other products, such as an organic diaper balm that comes in a stick, like deodorant, so parents can slather it on a baby’s bottom without getting their hands dirty. Her husband, Duane, made the so-called “Magic Stick” in their kitchen after the kids went to bed. He still does, although now they sell 1,000 units a month.
In 2009, Ormsby decided to try her hand at invention again. She wanted an even better diaper. She came up with Gro Baby, now named Gro Via. Gro Via is a colorful, waterproof shell with an organic cotton liner that snaps in. When the diaper is soiled, the liner is removed – not the complete diaper.
The modular system means parents have less to buy and therefore, less expensive. Plus there’s less laundry to do and less water consumed. Secondly, the systems can be partly disposable. Instead of putting in a cloth liner, a disposable is put in. The disposable biodegrades in about 90 days and is free from chlorine, plastics, dyes and fragrances.