Business Steps Up To Support Indigenous Entrepreneurs

University of Montana
Missoulian, Mont.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The Impact Challenge for Women and Girls grant will support the University of Montana and MonTEC develop programing on an array of topics like personal finances, taxes, marketing, business and self-care.


MonTEC, the University of Montana’s startup incubator, recently received an $850,000 grant from Google to support Indigenous women looking to start or grow a business in Montana.

The Impact Challenge for Women and Girls grant will allow MonTEC to collaborate with Salish Kootenai College and Blackfeet Community College to develop programming online in a wide array of subjects to support female entrepreneurs, according to a UM news release.

“Women of color, in particular, are incredibly underrepresented in business and leadership roles,” said Morgan Slemberger, director of Women’s Entrepreneurship and Leadership at UM, in the release.
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“We will use this generous grant from Google to support and supplement the existing strength of Indigenous women by providing them with culturally empowering online courses.”

The university of was one of 34 organizations internationally to receive funding through the program. Moreover, UM was one of only six in the United States to be a recipient.

“Collaborations like these not only help deliver on UM’s promise to advance inclusive prosperity for all Montana citizens but also enact a critical part of UM’s mission,” said UM President Seth Bodnar in the release.

“This program perfectly aligns with one of our strategic priorities: Partner with Place. It reflects our commitment to recognize and support the talent of the people of Montana, including those living in rural areas and Indigenous communities, to promote the prosperity of our state and region,” he continued.

In March, the Impact challenge for Women and Girls set out to disperse $25 million to the global nonprofit community. The philanthropic program partnered with a women-led panel of experts to evaluate proposals based on four key criteria including innovation, impact, feasibility and scalability.

The entrepreneurial spirit is strong in the Blackfeet community, according to Marlene Doney, chair of the Business Division at Blackfeet Community College.

“We previously offered a SMART Money program to teach financial literacy, and we set record enrollment in that class,” Doney said. “The desire to learn more about finances and other areas of business is something we can grow from.”

Salish Kootenai College will spend the next year developing classes on a array of topics like personal finances, taxes, marketing, business and self-care, said Rachel Andrews-Gould, the dean of the college’s Business Division.

Ultimately, Andrews-Gould says the impact of these future businesses will extend beyond themselves.

“Every woman we help touches multiple generations and family members,” Andrews-Gould said. “Their children, their husbands, their aunties. It will make generational differences.”

In addition to the money, UM, MonTEC and its partners will participate in a accelerator program for four months led by Google’s Accelerator and Women Techmakers communities and others.

“Globally, women have been near twice as likely to lose their jobs during COVID-19 as men,” said Jacqueline Fuller, president of “It’s vital that we elevate and support work that empowers women and girls to reach their full economic potential, especially in marginalized communities. The pandemic recovery must be an inclusive one, and we know that when we invest in women and girls, we all benefit.”
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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