Stonetree Climbing Center Starts Off on Right Footing with Help of Helena SBDC

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 plan.  He challenged them to really focus on being honest about numbers to prove that the venture would work.  After spending a lot of time with Brandon and taking a hard look at the repayment ability of a loan, they approached a local bank and were approved for funding.

With the loan proceeds and some investment money, Tim and Zach purchased an unoccupied concrete building in Helena’s Sixth Ward area, giving new purpose to the building, which had sat empty for many years.  Although construction took far longer than expected, Stonetree Climbing Center opened to the public in October 2015.     

When asked about the best business decision they’ve made so far, Tim didn’t hesitate to answer that it was starting off with the SBDC. 

The gym has attracted everyone from the passionate and expert level climbers to young children and beginners.  The gym features a beginner’s area safe for the youngest of climbers as well as advanced courses that can cause even owner Zach to fall.  The gym also changes the routes weekly so climbers don’t get tired of doing the same tracks.  In addition to the climbing walls there is a function room for birthday parties, an outdoor patio, a sitting area; they just started offering yoga classes as well.

With business doing better than expected and revenues climbing Tim and Zach look forward to continuing to create a great community space for locals to come and hang out at, as well as a gathering place for local climbers.