GREAT FALLS — Every year, the Great Falls Development Authority (GFDA) celebrates female entrepreneurs through an event called ‘The Fire Within.’
Now in its 12th year, the community nominates and votes on which women are most deserving of the award. This year, 26 winners were announced.
‘The Fire Within 2023’ is divided into two categories:
- Inspire Award: This award will go to a Woman Business Owner in operation for 5+ years in an established business that has made a significant personal contribution to its success, growth or expansion. We are looking for a business savvy woman who has helped or is helping other business owners or budding entrepreneurs. The winner will have: five plus successful years in business and mentored at least one other entrepreneur.
- Aspire Award: This award will go to a Woman Business Owner in operation 1-5 years who has recently realized her dream by starting a new venture. Her early success and accomplishments show her creativity, passion and drive.
Here is the list of winners provided by the GFDA:
GFDA Vice President Jolene Schalper explained what makes this event so important: “Thirteen years ago, we recognized that there is a disparity between female and male business owners, and so we’re looking at how we can celebrate female entrepreneurs and how we can support more of them in our economy. We determined the best way is to get everyone together once a year, and look for female entrepreneurs in our community and award them.”
We spoke with a couple winners of this year’s “Fire Within” to hear more about their award and their path to success
Morgan Tweet, co-founder of IND HEMP of Fort Benton, said, “It’s awesome to see the community kind of rally behind, and obviously all of us are here because we have great teams that support us and get us here, and it’s an opportunity to celebrate what we’ve done as a team, as a business and kind of celebrate the victories. A lot of us pioneers are just that. We’re grinding it out every day, and we don’t always take a chance to reflect on how far we’ve come.
Shirstie Gaylord of Hometana emphasized the work that goes behind running a successful business, and why community support plays a major role.
“There’s a lot that goes into running a business,” she said. “Customers have to come in everyday, you have to manage employees, and the fact that you can win an award, accept an award and be nominated for an award for all of the hard work that goes in day in and day out of the constant grind to run a small business is an unbelieveable achievement. It is a grind to run a small business, and we feel so lucky and so fortunate that the GFDA was able to recognize a number of different entrepreneurs.”
When GFDA launched their Fire Within Awards, they would select one “Inspire Award,” and one “Aspire Award.” However, with the influx of female business and nominations, they said it’s an opportunity to recognize many female entrepreneurs.
“They are all worthy of the of the ‘Aspire’ and ‘Inspire’ award,” said Jolene Schalper. “They were all selected for their business acumen, and we’re really excited to grow this event, and grow the network and influence so more people know about how rewarding and challenging it is to be a female entrepreneur.”
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