Sarah Calhoun has two decades of leadership experience in both the non-profit and small business sectors, working in the outdoor education industry before founding Red Ants Pants in 2006.
Raised on a farm in rural Connecticut, Calhoun was inspired to move to Montana by Ivan Doig’s This House of Sky. From her home in the small town of White Sulphur Springs, she has become an inspiration to entrepreneurs nationwide and is known for her dedication to supporting rural communities.
Tired of wearing men’s work pants that didn’t fit, Calhoun designed pants that would fit, function and flatter working women. Red Ants Pants are made in the USA and that will not change. Red Ants Pants is based out of White Sulphur Springs, Montana where the storefront, distribution center, and international headquarters all reside in an historic saddle shop. Known for their grass roots marketing efforts, including ‘Tour de Pants,’ the direct sales business model is proving effective.
To show support for the hard-working side of Montana and beyond, the Red Ants Pants Foundation was born in 2011. The Foundation supports women’s leadership, working family farms and ranches, and rural communities – the three things most important to Calhoun and the Red Ants Pants Community. That same year the Foundation launched its first program – the Red Ants Pants Music Festival. In 2011, over 6,000 fans came to celebrate rural Montana in a cow pasture. Over the years, attendees have enjoyed headliners including Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Dwight Yoakam, Wynonna Judd, and Keb’ Mo. The festival continues its success into its tenth year on July 23-26, 2020 aiming to improve upon the authentic, rich community culture the 16,000 attendees enjoyed during the 2019 festival.
Calhoun’s grit has brought her enterprises national recognition over the years – in 2018 she was named to the Montana Business Hall of Fame and the Festival received the prestigious Event of the Year award from the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development. In 2016, featured in The New York Times and The Huffington Post. In 2015, selected as one of only 100 businesses nationwide to participate in the Small Business Majority’s Small Business Leadership Summit in Washington, DC. In 2012, named the National Women in Business Champion for the Small Business Administration. In 2011, invited by President Obama to attend a White House forum on jobs and economic development after serving as a US Delegate to the APEC Women in Business Summit in San Francisco. Closer to home, she was honored when Governor Schweitzer named her the 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year for the State of Montana. Calhoun and her company have been featured in many national publications including Entrepreneur, National Geographic, Delta Sky, Country Woman, and Sunset.
Calhoun has been called a “revolutionary figure in rural business today” and a “powerhouse of inspiration for women in business.” Her dynamic style and inspiring experiences as an entrepreneur make her a highly sought after keynote speaker. She has given two TEDx talks, dozens of keynote addresses, and has been featured on national television programs such as CNBC, CNN, and Bloomberg.
As Calhoun has risen to the top echelons of success as a rural entrepreneur, she is paying it forward by actively encouraging and mentoring other women starting their own businesses.
Calhoun spends her free time enjoying Montana’s great outdoors, cutting firewood, hunting, and camping. She lives in White Sulphur with her dog Nellie.
Awards and Recognition
- YWCA Billing’s Salute 2020’s Woman of Achievement
- Montana Business Hall of Fame inductee. August, 2018.
- Outside Online features on the rise of women’s workwear. June & October, 2018.
- The Red Ants Pants Music Festival is named the 2018 Event of the Year award from the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development. April, 2018.
- Helena College commencement speaker. May, 2017
- Intel #SheOwnsIt featured business woman. April, 2017.
- MSNBC ‘Made in the USA’ segment feature and TV interview. February, 2017.
- Featured in The New York Times and The Seattle Times. October, 2016.
- Featured in The Furrow, John Deere’s agricultural journal. March, 2016.
- 2015 Small Business Majority’s Small Business Leadership Summit delegate, Washington, DC. Only small business representing Montana and one of only 100 businesses selected nationwide to participate. May, 2015.
- 2015 Young Alumni Achievement Award for Career Development and Service, Gettysburg College.
- Featured in Airstream Life Magazine. Spring, 2015.
- CNN interview featured on “Growing America,” an HLN and Holiday Inn original series. January, 2015.
- National Geographic “Best of Montana in Fall: Shopping” feature. Fall, 2014.
- Television interview on “Bloomberg Surveillance” discussing Red Ants Pants’ success and MBA’s Across America. September, 2014.
- CNBC “On The Money” interview highlighting Red Ants Pants’ work with MBA’s Across America – a non-profit that facilitates MBA’s to help small business. August, 2014.
- Delta Sky Magazine, featured interview in the Montana profile. August, 2014.
- TEDx Talk Presenter, Whitefish. January, 2014
- Featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, Doing Good Section. September, 2013.
- Bozeman 20 Under 40 honoree. December, 2012.
- 2012 National Women in Business Champion, U.S. Small Business Administration.
- 2012 Women in Business Champion for Montana and the Region, U.S. Small Business Administration.
- 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year for the State of Montana, awarded by Governor Schweitzer.
- Invited to the White House and featured on the White House website for a Forum on Jobs and Economic Development. November, 2011.
- Served as a US Delegate to the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Women in Business Summit in San Francisco. Hosted by U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. September, 2011.
- TEDx Talk Presenter, Gettysburg College. April, 2012.
- Cover of Country Woman Magazine. Feb/March, 2011.
- Featured in Sunset Magazine. April, 2007.