Start-ups charge ahead
COVID-19 SHIFTED PLANS BUT RESOLVE REMAINED UNCHANGED
The entrepreneurial spirit is admired for a reason. A level of grit is required to start a business. Add to that a business plan, financing, red tape and most recently – a pandemic. New startups in Big Sky had to assess their business ideas more thoroughly: is it sustainable? How will ramifications from the pandemic impact revenue? To launch in the midst of COVID-19 took real guts – courage they all found. Ben Keefe, co-owner of Mountain and Canyon Cab Company said the ball was rolling long before the pandemic hit. Tanya Simonson’s family has been in the dispensary business for years, so the Big Sky location of Herbaceous is an extension of an already successful business model. Skylar Jackson has built-up a steady clientele by fixing bicycles over the last two decades. He had been working out of his garage before By Word of Mouth Bistro and Catering owners approached him with an idea to share space and gave him the option of low overhead.
Pandemic or not – they are finding ways to make it work.
Jackson said one of his concerns before launching the Shred Shack was the lack of available bicycle parts. Companies are selling out of bicycles and bicycle parts as more people hit the trails in light of the pandemic.
“That was my one bugaboo, but the thing with being a mechanic is you fix everything – you try to not replace things, so that helps a lot,” he said. Also, the support of longtime locals and “the way the town is growing” helped him face down any concerns.
When colder weather hits, he will be tuning skis and fixing bikes as more people head toward snow biking as a winter sporting option.
It is also not his first rodeo: he was the co-owner of Brothel Bikes, but wanted his business to be more bicycles and less bar.
“It was fun, but I needed a change,” he said.
Simonson’s family farms the marijuana that they turn into products. With a dispensary in Butte, the Big Sky shop is an extension of an existing business model. She said her products help many immunocompromised people.
“We realized that opening a business during these uncertain times would be risky. But the risk was necessary because we are an essential business and our patients need us now more than ever,” she said. “The timing was unfortunate, but it’s been a long hard road trying to get the Big Sky Herbaceous store open, therefore holding off for longer was not an option.”
As for Mountain and Canyon Cab Co., Keefe said he and his business partner had been working diligently for three years to get it off the ground.
“My business partner and I had just got our funding check from our investors three days before Big Sky Resort announced that they were shutting down early due to COVID-19,” he said. “We had already put so much time and effort into it that we had to get going or shut down before we even started.”
They pivoted the business – instead of transporting people they began doing deliveries for those in need. They were able to openup fully once Montana went into phase 2 of Gov. Steve Bullock’s reopening plan. That initial pivot created another revenue option – to-go food delivery.
Keefe said they view their business as an important addition to the community, vitally important to locals and visitors.
“We also hope to help cut down on the amount of impaired driving that takes place around here and help people enjoy themselves knowing they have a safe and reliable way to get home,” he said.
The mellow beginning to the cab company courtesy COVID was similar to a soft opening – it helped them as they were able to work out some kinks in the system. The slow time also allowed for them to give-back to the community they love “that has already given us so much.”