UM Awarded $20,000 for Women’s Entrepreneurship

February 06, 2020

UM students enjoy a Pursue Your Passions class.MISSOULA – The University of Montana was awarded a $20,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation to support female-centered programming for students and local individuals interested in learning more about women’s entrepreneurship.

The grant will support UM’s Pursue Your Passions program, which encourages innovative, equitable, prosperous and collaborative futures for all.

“The Pursue Your Passions program has been running on generous business sponsorships, independent gifts and in-kind donations for the past four years,” said Morgan Slemberger, program director of Pursue Your Passions and associate director of the UM-based Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars. “This grant reinforces our current program and is a catalyst for new efforts serving more women throughout the state of Montana.”

PYP launched in October 2015, when the Blackstone LaunchPad entrepreneurial database had 33.19% female registrants. Three years later, the database shows 48.32% female registrants.

“Making this program more widely available through online course development, technology, childcare and more will help break down the barriers many women are experiencing,” said Wells Fargo District Manager Randy Riley. “Without some of those challenges, we hope women will be able to create sustainable business plans and pursue their entrepreneurial goals.”

The first PYP will open to the general public and UM students on Monday, Feb. 24. It is offered online and is self-paced to meet the needs of busy women who often bear the brunt of unpaid household and care work to the tune of two-and-a-half times more than men, according to the United Nations.

“This new course is designed for busy women,” Slemberger said. “The self-paced, online delivery can meet the needs of women who have a less flexible schedule due to families, busy careers and other factors. We want to make it easier since availability can be a barrier to starting something new.”

So far, more than 60 students have gone through the program, and 10 businesses have launched. During fall and spring, UM also has experienced a 30% to 50% increase in female participation for small-business startup competitions.

“Opening this program to the broader community is really exciting because we already know how valuable it is to students,” said Christine Littig, the PYP board president and former owner of Bernice’s Bakery. “Opening registration outside of traditional UM boundaries really illustrates the University’s dedication to Montana women as a whole.”

Pursue Your Passions (umt.edu/passion) is a program arm of UM’s Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars. PYP creates empowering environments where women say their ideas out loud, building educational, experiential and entrepreneurial programs for Montana women.

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Contact: Morgan Slemberger, associate director, UM Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars, 406-243-5723, morgan.slemberger@mso.umt.edu.