Soon residents in the Mining City will have the opportunity to rub shoulders with representatives from companies like Slack and WeWork as around 200 entrepreneurs and other professionals descend upon Butte next week for the annual Innovate Montana Symposium.
The event runs Oct. 14-16 and marks the fourth run of the symposium, which is put on by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. The event also marks the first time the yearly gathering has been held outside of Billings.
Joe Willauer, who heads the Butte Local Development Corp. and Headwaters RC&D, said Butte had to compete with other communities to land the event, which he called “one of the premier conferences that the state has to offer.”
“It’s a huge opportunity… to learn from entrepreneurs, business owners, national CEOs, and leaders from all over the country right here in town,” Willauer said of the symposium, which costs $89 to attend.
The speaking lineup of the symposium will feature none other than Gov. Steve Bullock, along with Montana entrepreneurs and business leaders from the national stage. Events include breakout sessions, along with “buzz sessions” during which attendees can participate in smaller, more intimate discussions with the symposium’s speakers.
Butte business leaders will also be on hand next week to share their insights on what makes their businesses thrive, including Headframe Spirits’ Courtney McKee and Jon Wick of 5518 Designs.
During one of the so-called Buzz sessions Oct. 16, Wick will join four other Montana entrepreneurs who will talk about how they got their companies started.
5518 Designs is a graphic-design and apparel company that, in addition to creating custom, wholesale items, has a retail store in the heart of Uptown on North Main Street.
When Wick started 5518 in 2012, it was just a home-based one-man show. Flash forward to today, and the company has seven employees and has become a recognizable brand in southwest Montana, with its simple yet evocative prints that celebrate the outdoors and the lifestyles found in Butte and Montana.
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Wick said “from day one” he knew he wanted to make the 5518 brand a driving force behind his company.
“We’re trying to celebrate who we are and what we love about being (in Butte and Montana),” he said.
But Wick said his brand isn’t just about an aesthetic. It’s also about the mission behind the brand — a mission to promote recreation and to support Butte through entrepreneurship and being a cheerleader for other local businesses.
Wick won’t be the only entrepreneur next week to talk about what it’s like to run a company with a mission.
McKee from Headframe Spirits will lead an Oct. 16 discussion titled, “Affecting Change through Purpose Driven Companies.”
Headframe is a Certified B Corporation — a designation that certifies that a company balances purpose and profit and takes into account the impact of its decisions on workers, customers, suppliers, the community and the environment.
The certification is not easy to get, Mckee said in a previous news story on the topic, and Headframe had to jump through a lot of hoops to become a B Corporation.
“We’re here for more than creating shareholder returns,” said McKee in the story, “For us, it’s really important that we leave a positive mark."
Willauer, meanwhile, said registration for the symposium, which takes place at the Clarion Inn Copper King Hotel & Convention Center on Harrison Avenue, is ongoing. Those interested in registering can do so at bit.ly/2k4et1X.