Success Stories

Tabletree juices

Gary and Susan Snow always wanted to come home to the Flathead Valley of Northwest Montana.  When a board member of the Flathead Lake Cherry Growers Association called Gary in 2015 and asked the Snows to bring their successful juice-making business to Montana, the opportunity was there.

There was one problem:  to do what the Cherry Growers were asking - bottle and sell Flathead cherry juice - they needed help, not the least of which was financing to move their operations from Canada and startup a U.S.-based company.

It all came together with the help of the Small Business Development Center in Kalispell, located at Flathead Valley Community College, and financing through Flathead Bank of Bigfork (now First Interstate Bank) and an $85,000 guaranteed loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

In addition, Montana state awarded a $40,000 grant to Tabletree for cherry processing equipment.  The award came from The Growth Through Agriculture program,... Read More

Daycare Center Success in Great Falls, MT

After earning a degree in criminal justice at the University of Great Falls with a minor in psychology, Raegen Breeden thought she might have a career in criminal justice, maybe as a police officer.  She never imagined at the time of her graduation 19 years ago she would be “policing” children as an entrepreneur and owner of a thriving childcare center and preschool.

True to form, life has a way of directing one’s path.  Not only did Raegen add a degree in early childhood education this year, she is on the verge of a $1.7 million expansion of one of the most successful and popular childcare centers in Northcentral Montana.  

Raegan's success was recognized in March 2017 by Montana Governor Steve Bullock (pictured above, center) and by her Small Business Development Center advisor in Great Falls, Jason Nitschke (pictured left of Gov. Bullock with Raegan, far right.)

Raegan's journey toward entrepreneurialism started shortly after she had her first child.  She... Read More

2017 SBA Small Business Person of the Year for Montana

It was 1967, the so-called “summer of love,” when Frank and Vi Bretz turned their love of camping into a small business in Missoula.  Their idea was to create a new opportunity for local families and visitors to Montana to have great summer outings at affordable prices.

That first year business was conducted from a leased service station and focused on renting small travel trailers.  Fifty years later, Bretz RV and Marine is the largest RV and boat dealer in the six-state region surrounding Montana, and company CEO Mark Bretz is the 2017 U.S. Small Business Administration Montana District Office small business person of the year. 

Mark Bretz took over the family-owned business in 1982.  He told RV Business Magazine in 1995 that as much as he enjoyed RV'ing, “I never thought I would be RV'ing for my livelihood. I was going to be a banker.” 

He said his parents bought their first RV when he was six.  “I grew up in the business," he said. 

When Mark entered... Read More

Tim Wetherill and his family, including 15-year-old, avid-rock-climber-son Jackson, moved to Helena from New Mexico.  Soon after arriving they realized the climbing season was quite a bit shorter in Montana than in New Mexico, and Helena didn’t offer any off-season climbing for the climbing enthusiasts, such as a climbing gym.  Nor was there one for over 100 miles. 

Tim soon began asking around town about rock climbing opportunities and the name Zach Bushilla came up several times.  Zach was another avid climber himself and had even turned his garage into a small rock gym.  Eventually the Wetherill’s and Bushilla met up and the conversation began about opening a climbing gym. 

Neither Tim nor Zach had business experience and turned to the Internet for help.  After conducting various Google searches Tim came across the Helena Small Business Development Center and Brandon Orr’s name.  SBDC Advisor Orr met with Tim and Zach and began assisting them with their business... Read More