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Success Stories

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

Abby Hetherington always knew her career would be something in the arts, as she has an eye for art and design.  Her spunk and self-described ADD-type of personality drives her to think out of the box as a creative thinker.

After high school Abby went to Interior Design school.  Following seven years of applying her interior design skills for a local firm, Abby decided to take it to the next level and go on her own.  Abby Hetherington Interiors started in 2013, catering to her high-end clients, including residents from Bozeman, Big Sky, the Yellowstone Club, and reaching across the nation.  After being in business for a couple years, Abby saw the need to expand her services with a design studio and showroom – a place where her clients could touch, feel and experience the products she was incorporating into her designs. 

Abby began looking for the perfect space, something in downtown Bozeman, with parking and a warehouse feel.  Once she stumbled upon the historical... Read More

Canyon River

Heather Ripplinger opened Canyon River Spa in Bozeman in 2007, after she saw a need to have multiple spa services in one spot.  Heather was a massage therapist, new mom and wife of a deployed military serviceman, when she thought of the idea to open a full-service spa.  She was often referring her clients for facials and hair services, and decided to open a spa/salon where clients could get all their treatments at one facility.  Canyon River Spa offers massage, facials and other skincare treatments along with nail and haircare services in a luxurious setting that allows clients to relax and rejuvenate. 

Two years into her business a fire caused extensive damage to the spa.  According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, an estimated 25 percent of businesses do not reopen following a major disaster, but with Heather’s determination and devotion to the business, she was able to rebuild.  Her insurance only covered a portion of the expenses; therefore she had to take... Read More