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Growing Montana, one student entrepreneur at a time

A group of eager St. Regis and Missoula high school students piled into PartnersCreative’s conference room a few weeks ago. This is an unusual occurrence for us — we often speak with students, but it’s usually at the university level and in the classroom as opposed to our office. It was an enlightening experience for us to engage with these students as part of One Montana’s Rural-Urban Student Entrepreneur Exchange — showing our space, telling our story and sharing our principles.

Launched in 2012, this exchange program brings together students and businesses across the state to bridge the rural-urban divide, working together to create new economic possibilities in their communities. Now in its sixth year, the program has reached students from Miles City to Missoula, Fort Benton to Twin Bridges, and 16 additional communities in between — 20 high schools and 460 student participants thus far. One Montana’s network of Montana entrepreneurs is growing as community outreach is strengthened, and we were honored to join in. Other businesses that hosted the students that day included Felco Industries, Black Coffee Roasting, Biga Pizza, Audience Awards and Zoo City Apparel.

After learning from the students that many of their other stops stressed the importance of a strong business plan and the difficulties of starting a business, we provided a brief overview of our company’s origins and struggles as a growing small business. Then we launched right into what makes us us — and how our perspective can assist their futures.

Unbeknownst to us, half of the students in front of us were currently taking a marketing class. And everyone was ready to dive in. From sharing client stories to illustrating our Tangible BrandTM process, we discussed with the students the value of knowing one’s audience and choosing the right media and messaging to target that audience to have the greatest impact. We also ran through a case study and another campaign-in-concepting and asked their reactions. There’s nothing quite like hearing the words you used to craft a concept bounced back at you by your target audience.

When it came to Q&A, it was flattering to be asked about internships. These high schoolers have the future on their minds and we know we’ll either hear from them or hear of them in the years to come.