Butte, America and Red Ants Pants

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Two weeks ago, Sarah and Maggie reunited from the summer hiatus and made a trip to Butte, MT or honestly, it should be referred to as Butte, America. What’s so special about Butte? Butte is located in central Montana and has a long and interesting history in the state with its birth in mining. Butte was once called the “Richest Hill on Earth” for its abundance in copper and became a mining boom town. Butte’s history is steeped in mining culture, labor wars, Copper Kings, and also environmental catastrophe. But the historic town, which has seen mining decline over the years, also knows how to show folks one heck of a good time. Any would anyone expect anything less from a town where Evil Knievel was born? Between the party on St. Patrick’s Day, playing host to the National Folk Festival and just being a general good town filled with down to earth folks, one can find some fun in this old mining town.

It wasn’t just good times that brought RAP to Butte. Sarah was invited to speak on a panel at the Montana Economic Development Summit. This, Maggie must brag, is a very big deal. The Montana Economic Development Summit is held every three years in the state and is hosted by US Senator Max Baucus. It’s an opportunity for Montana businesses to connect with their elected leaders, to network with major corporations, and to share with other colleagues and friends their troubles and triumphs in the world of business. And if you know anything about business in Montana, there were far more cowboy boots than suits in the crowd during the two day conference.

Sarah’s panel was “Thinking Outside the Box: Innovative Ideas and Ways to Grow” and she was joined by four other businessmen about how they’ve done things a little bit differently with their businesses and how, especially for Red Ants Pants, it’s worked to think outside the box. Sarah, the lone woman on the panel, was joined by friends from great and important Montana-based companies,  Simms Fishing Products, HabiHut, and Floating Islands International to talk about how each of them and their companies have forgone the mass-distribution route and paved a way to connect directly with their customers without sacrificing their business practices or product quality. And for RAP, it’s been important to always keep the company connecting directly to our customers and friends. Plus, who could honestly turn down an opportunity to travel all across America in a ’64 Airstream?

Not only was the summit an incredible opportunity to talk about RAP and show off our wonderful customer photos (mostly sans pants of any kind) but a memorable and inspiring way to listen to some very, very successful global business leaders like Warren Buffet, Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, Jeff Immelt of GE, and several other world-class industry leaders and government officials. Part motivational speech, part rally the troops, this summit was aimed to inspire and for a young and upcoming small business, an opportunity to hear from the great, the smart, and the optimistic.

And while we hung on to Warren Buffet’s kind words and sage advice, we also connected with other small and just-starting-out businesses, like our new but what feels like old friends John Milanovich of Right PSI and Tim Mulholland of Headwaters Floating Island. We, as young business leaders, are rising to the call to move business forward but also by doing it right-right to our customers and to our workers. Perhaps the old model of business has changed, and perhaps some of it needs to change, and we can’t help but feel the powerful shift and know that we’ve had incredible sincere and genuine support in thinking outside the box: in making pants that fit all body sizes and types, by honoring American workers, by forgoing mass production and mass retailers and staying local, and by honoring the working woman, no matter if you work on a ranch in Montana, on the ice in Antarctica, or drive piles on the California coast.

Of course we’re thinking outside the box at Red Ants Pants because you simply cannot contain curves in boxes.  Period.

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