Op-ed: Carrying Montana’s small-business voice to D.C.

Calhoun

Red Ants Pants founder Sarah Calhoun is going to a small-business summit in Washington, D.C., next week. She’d like to hear from other business owners before she goes.

I started Red Ants Pants out of necessity. I had no interest in being in business; I just needed work pants that fit. It is a huge honor that this entrepreneurial adventure is taking me to the White House for a second time, but I need your help.

Next week, I’ll be attending the Small Business Majority’s Small Business Leadership Summit in our nation’s capital. The summit brings together small-business owners from across the country to speak directly to policymakers, issue experts and members of the administration to voice the needs of real small business owners.

Red Ants Pants is the only small business representing Montana and one of only 100 businesses selected nationwide to participate. This is an incredible platform to emphasize Montana’s unique opportunities at the national level.

In my case, I received a lot of advice early on highlighting all of the drawbacks of doing business in a rural community: the isolation, the transportation costs, the lack of foot traffic, lack of a workforce—the list goes on and on. Yet, Red Ants Pants’ success would not be possible without the support of the hard-working rural community of White Sulphur Springs. And, in many ways, the Red Ants Pants Foundation and the Red Ants Pants Music Festival are only successful because we celebrate rural America.

At the summit, I plan to stress three key points: a long-term investment strategy for our rural roads, pipes and broadband for businesses and families; workforce training policies shaped by the unique needs of small-business owners; and making the tax code less complicated for small businesses (and everyone else while we’re at it!).

Recently ranked No. 1 in the nation for startup activity by the Kauffman Foundation, Montana is home to some of the most innovative and exciting small businesses on earth. Many of them are colleagues who work day in and day out to make payroll, keep Montana’s Main Streets vibrant and ensure our state remains an amazing place to live, work and play.

I want to make this trip worthwhile and it’s important to me that I bring your ideas as well. If you’d like me to voice a particular issue or idea, drop me a line at sarah@redantspants.com. Additionally, I encourage my fellow small business owners to make their concerns heard using Small Business Majority’s online survey: http://www.sbmleadershipsummit.com/survey/.

Montana is a state that runs on a small-business engine. These lines of communication between the public and private sector are super important to continue improving the landscape for small businesses across the country, especially in rural America. I’d be honored to share all of our stories when I head to Washington this month.

Sarah Calhoun is the owner of Red Ants Pants in White Sulphur Springs, the director of the nonprofit Red Ants Pants Foundation, which has to date delivered $45,000 in grants to support women’s leadership, working family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Calhoun is also the producer of the Fifth Annual Red Ants Pants Music Festival, set for July 23-26th.

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