Who do you think of when someone says entrepreneur? Steve Jobs? Oprah Winfrey? Elon Musk? Mark Zuckerberg? These are certainly the kind of folks Wall Street and the media like to lionize for changing the world on a massive scale. But these entrepreneurs and their businesses can perhaps seem at odds with the Montana way of life, especially in light of recent controversies at corporations like Facebook. All of this raises the question of what a Montana entrepreneur and a Montana startup might look like. What kind of startup activity is achievable AND desirable in Montana?
To begin to answer these questions let me tell you about some of Montana’s latest cohort of emerging entrepreneurs: Jenny Sheets, Ari Ronick, and Sara Boughner.
Jenny Sheets is an MFA student in the Creative Writing program at the University of Montana. As a writer and educator, Jenny has set out to address the challenge highlighted in recent national research that approximately three out of four students cannot write “proficiently” at their grade level.
Jenny is the founder of Storysquares, a digital storyboarding app that helps 3rd-7th grade students write stories and reports, step-by-step, with confidence. She just won $21,500 in UM’s John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge, a program jointly run by UM’s College of Business and Blackstone LaunchPad that is open to higher education students across the state.
Sara Boughner and Ari Ronick are both Doctor of Physical Therapy students at UM. Sara is also earning a certificate in Public Health and Ari is an MBA candidate. They placed second in the John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge with their startup Morphose Exercise Systems that is developing a 3D Avatar based app to help patients improve their adherence to physical therapy exercise regimens. This should result in improved recovery and reduced risk of longer term negative health consequences from sub-optimal recovery.
Continue reading more at our entrepreneurship website, Make Montana Home.
Paul Gladen, Director at Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana