Family Business Day honors tight-knit Montana entrepreneurs

A pair of local businesses were honored as part of the 23rd Annual Family Business Day hosted by Montana State University’s Jake Jabs College of Business & Entrepreneurship.

Bozeman baked goods company Elliotts of Montana and retailer Wild West Shirt Company were among the six businesses awarded at Friday’s event. Busted Knuckle Brewery in Glasgow, Cooper Hereford Ranch in Willow Creek, General Distributing Company in Great Falls and MARS Stout, Inc. in Missoula rounded out the winners.

“The most important part of this award is the recognition it brings to family businesses across the state of Montana,” said Wild West owner Don Cowles. “Family businesses are a significant part of our economy, but I don’t think they get the recognition they deserve.”

Wild West, which won in the medium category (31 to 50 employees), was founded by Cowles in 1974 and provides shirt printing for both small tourist shops and larger retailers. In 2015, the company opened ShirtWorks, its own retail headquarters, on Main Street in Bozeman.

The business’s growth wouldn’t have been possible without the help of family, Cowles said, recounting a story of his two children helping fold and sort shirts when they were 8 years old.

“The best achievement of my business career is having a family business and being able to pass that on to another generation,” he said. “They have the drive and the vision to carry it on.”

Since its inception in 1994, Family Business Day has issued honors to around 150 Montana businesses.

“This is truly one of my favorite events of the year,” said business school dean Kregg Aytes. “This is really a rewarding experience for all of us.”

From Bozeman Daily Chronicle