MISSOULA – More than a dozen female University of Montana students recently completed the Pursue Your Passion program, a yearlong initiative that helps participants explore their interests through an entrepreneurial mindset.
“We hope that this program can encourage underrepresented populations – especially women – to get involved in entrepreneurial thinking,” said Morgan Slemberger, marketing and operations manager for Blackstone LaunchPad at UM, which oversees Pursue Your Passion.
The program, a partnership between Blackstone LaunchPad and the Women’s Foundation of Montana, strives to promote entrepreneurship as a viable career for students, including women, who represent a much smaller percentage within entrepreneurship than men.
The high-potential students – selected from a competitive application pool – began the yearlong program with an intensive retreat, were mentored by entrepreneurs who helped them reach their personal and professional goals, and attended monthly peer-accountability meetings. The students also had access to the LaunchPad’s consulting resources and were encouraged to enter UM’s startup contests.
Two participants competed in 2016’s Fall EPIC Pitch Competition, and one competed in 2017’s John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge.
Kassi Soelter, a UM freshman and Pursue Your Passion certificate holder, took home $7,000 from the larger startup challenge. For her business Crepe Cuisine, a food truck that offers French crepes, she earned $2,500 for fourth place, $3,500 for Best Elevator Pitch and $1,000 for the Brandon Speth Award for Passion, Poise and Charisma. Stoelter used her money to launch her business at the Missoula Farmer’s Market. She sells her crepes on Saturdays at the market located on the north end of Higgins Ave.
The nine participants who earned certificates for completing the program are:
- Haley Anderson, a public administration graduate student from Missoula.
- Rehana Asmi, journalism alumna from Redmond, Washington.
- Natalie Boose, a junior studying business marketing from Missoula.
- Emma Fewer, a junior studying business from Glasgow.
- Erin Harbaugh, a senior studying political science from Spokane, Washington.
- Emma Simuns, a graduate student studying business administration from Missoula.
- Kassi Soelter, a freshman studying psychology and social work from Billings.
- Wendy Vanden Bosch, a graduate student studying social work from Jerome, Idaho.
- April Werle, a senior studying fine art from Helena.
For more information about each individual student’s passion and entrepreneurial vision, call Slemberger at 406-243-5723 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The PYP program recently concluded the first round of applications for the 2017-18 academic year and will open a second round of applications during the first two weeks of the fall semester. Find more information out about the program online at http://www.umt.edu/passion/ or call 406-243-5723.