Michelle Huie // VIM & VGR

For those of us women entrepreneurs still in the fledgling stages of our careers, Michelle Huie is the type of gal who makes us say,

“I want to be like her.” 

She’s cool as a cucumber and smart as a whip. And, by the way, she’s generous. By the time we’d drained our drinks at Clyde Coffee in our town of Missoula, Montana, I’d virtually been given a short seminar on how to be a seasoned female CEO.

Michelle had a lengthy career in the healthcare field before she started her hit compression legwear company, VIM & VGR. At VIM & VGR, she and her rockstar team focus on providing style and function for people who work hard just like she does.

Here’s Michelle to tell you more about how she moves the world:


BB: Michelle, you created a fashion compression sock company called VIM & VIGR, which is, by the way, incredibly cool. How did you land upon that particular product?

MH: I moved to Missoula in 2011 and started in a pharmaceutical sales position. My geography was Montana and Idaho and after a few years into the position, I was complaining about my sedentary lifestyle and tired legs to a friend who happens to be a physical therapist. He recommended compression socks, but when I looked at available options, all I could find were medical or athletic products.

I ended up buying a pair and was underwhelmed by the comfort, quality, and style. Plus, they were very expensive. This really motivated me to start VIM & VIGR. I thought, if I had a need for a pair of cute, high-quality compression socks, I’m sure many other people could benefit from the product as well. I officially launched VIM & VIGR in late 2013.

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BB: I only recently learned how useful compression socks are (and how cool they can look). Who benefits most from VIM & VIGR’s products?

MH: People who sit or stand for long periods of time, so virtually everyone! We have such a large range of customers from people in the healthcare field who stand for long periods, like nurses and doctors, to millennials who want to be more proactive with their health, to frequent flyers.

BB: Anyone who owns a business knows it’s hard to separate your work from the rest of your life. Your partner teaches and studies American history at the University of Montana. Do you find that your jobs work their way into your home life? And if so, how do you navigate that?

MH: I don’t believe in work-life balance; I believe in work-life integration.  When you spend eight to 10 hours a day on something, I think it’s difficult to achieve true balance. I think it’s impossible to really separate the two.

This is why I’m always encouraging people in the early phases of their career to really work on something they love and are passionate about.

BB: You’re the head of a successful company, but I first met you at a workshop for entrepreneurs. Why is it important to you to keep investing in professional development?

MH: I’m constantly working on professional and personal development. I read books, listen to podcasts, and work with a professional coach. I really believe in having a growth mindset and constantly working towards improvement. Practice makes progress and it’s a never-ending journey.

BB: You and I talked about making tough decisions as a boss. What advice can you give other decision-makers about that task?

MH: As a company grows there’s a shift that happens when you not only think about all the employees but you have to think about the business as a whole. This forces you to have to make difficult decisions that may affect individuals within the company. And these types of decisions are what I lose the most sleep over.  I have to remind myself that I’m the main person who has to think about what the company needs to do. If I stop doing this many more people will be affected by my lack of action than my actions.

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BB: You’re super proud of the team you built at VIM & VIGR. What do you look for when you hire someone?

MH: I look for a few characteristics. The first thing I look for is the coachability of the person. Is this person willing to grow and improve? This could be difficult to tease out in an interview because people like to think that they’re highly coachable and adaptable. I like to frame the question like this:

“Tell me about a time when you received some constructive feedback. How did it make you feel and what did you do with the feedback?”

I love to incorporate follow-up questions to force the interviewee to add more depth to his or her answers.

The next thing I look for is resilience. VIM & VIGR is still a growing startup and there are a lot of ups and downs. Change can be exhausting and debilitating to some and it can be exciting for others. I try to look for people who are nimble and adaptable.

One of the most important thing that I look for is whether they will enjoy the work and make an impact on our business regardless of their level or position within our company. People want to have relevance and make an impact in their professional lives and I try to find out if VIM & VIGR and the position will help them achieve that.

BB: What motivates you?

MH: When I hear how much our product has made an impact on a customer’s life. We receive reviews and testimonials every day from customers and I feel so lucky that I’m able to provide a product that provides everyday wellness to so many people out there.


Get your own VIM & VGR compression socks here.


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Author Micah Larsen is a persuasion scientist and consultant. Her job is to teach people how to use subtle persuasion in their emails, conversations, and campaigns to get others to say “yes.”

Watch one of her short persuasion how-to videos of $9.97 value for free here using code:

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Sheila Cornwell // Montana Adventure Shuttle

Sheila’s got restless feet. The kind of feet that were made to wander, to pedal (she’s a bicyclist, too), and, now, to drive.

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Last year, Sheila blessed the Rocky Mountain region with the Montana Adventure Shuttle, a ready-to-go-anywhere 11-passenger van whose slogans include “endless roads, endless possibilities.”

Here’s Sheila herself to tell you more about how she moves the world:


BB: Do you remember the moment you decided to create the Montana Adventure Shuttle? What brought you there?

SC: I was tired of living in survival mode with the feeling that I had no control over my ability to succeed. Add to that the steady, growing feeling of losing my creative spark and feeling stifled by walls, proverbial and literal. Then, in late 2016, I was growing weary in my situation, missing the freedom of self-employment, and reminiscing about the previous summer’s five-day kayaking adventure in Glacier National Park. The urge to get out from behind a desk, coupled with my need for more physical movement, outdoor time, and my insatiable love for travel collected in my mind.

I soon felt this inescapable urge to break out of a failing pattern of attempts at success in the traditional workplace and allowed myself the creative freedom, my YOLO mindset, and my entrepreneurial spirit to take the lead.

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BB: What has been your favorite adventure you’ve taken with the Shuttle?

SC: I truly enjoy every shuttle trip! However, in November of 2017, I experienced my first overnight adventure with what was my first group of passengers from Missoula. A local film crew needed transportation to Helena and Bozeman and to visit some breweries for their show.

We stopped in Helena first, profiled a local hot spring, then headed on to the first brewery and filmed there. [In Bozeman] we … stayed the night at an amazing, historic bed and breakfast, then back to Bozeman’s brewery the next morning to complete filming. The crew was fun and friendly and the entire trip was full of camaraderie and laughter … beautiful scenery and singing on the way back! I remain friends with some of them, and the opportunity to serve my fellow Missoulians was invaluable!

BB: What kind of music do you listen to when you’re alone in the Shuttle?

SC: I have a varied collection of songs downloaded on my phone that I tend to listen to most. Artists and genres also spread across many genres, but mostly I listen to:

… Currently, I’m hooked on the song “Renegades” by X Ambassadors. I like to think of this as the theme song for all of us entrepreneurs!

Get persuasion tips from persuasion scientist & Badasserie author Micah Larsen

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BB: What inspires you?

SC: First and foremost is the beauty of this place; Montana, the Rocky Mountain environment, and Mother Nature. A close second to the environment we live in is the healing effect it has on me as well as the energy it feeds me. … I am inspired by other Montanans who also enjoy the numerous opportunities we have here to enjoy outdoor recreation. Their participation is a wonderful, daily reminder of what we can do here.

As a business owner, my fellow entrepreneurs are a huge inspiration, as they have a sort of energy of their own, which is kind and generous.

My children also inspire me, though they may not realize it. They are the reason I give instead of just take in this life! They need me to succeed as much as I need to succeed and I try to be a good role model for them.

Finally, but not least, my passengers inspire me to keep going with what I’m doing. They have offered a wealth of positive feedback and encouragement and ideas. Just their participation in my shuttle is validation and proof of the accomplishment.

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BB: What would you say to young women who are considering becoming entrepreneurs?

SC: Do not let the world intimidate you. I emphasize that word, “let.” Nor should you let the amount or type of work … prevent you from seeing your dream through to the end. There is a reason you are considering this option in life, so give it its due attention and examine not only who you truly are but what you want out of this life.

Your uniqueness is meant to shine, not hide behind fears.

BB: What makes you feel like a badass?

SC: Seeing this dream of mine becoming a reality. From what once seemed like a crazy idea. The idea coming to fruition.

The process itself is equally satisfying [and I’ve been] faced with big challenges every step of the way. With little funding, step by step I have been able to conquer each challenge by listening to my own instincts, and often with the help of others’.

Ultimately, I have to allow courage to spur me to take the actions necessary … instead of letting my fears hinder me. When I watch the desired outcome occur, there are feelings of pride and joy that rush over me. Then I feel like a badass!

I have also been known to squeal with delight, “This is working!!”

 

BB: What’s your dream trivia category?

SC: Oh, I would love to say, anything about bicycling or music, but I’m really more inclined to say that I’m a person who knows a little about a lot.

BB: Is there anything else you would like to add?

SC: I am incredibly grateful for the people who have shown me support in this community. That includes Missoula [Montana] as a whole, and the entrepreneurs and tourism organizations and other business owners I have met and become friends with.

Support is key when starting your own business and I have benefitted not only from emotional support but their combined wisdom and willingness to network as well!

I extend a hearty thank you to all of you who continue to help me, including you, Micah!

BB: Aw, gee, thanks! Ditto.

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Book your own memorable shuttle adventure with Sheila here and sign up for Montana Adventure Shuttle’s inspirational newsletter here.

 

 

The Ladies of Blue Marble

Y’know what’s more inspiring than one badass, innovative woman?

Nine badass, innovative women.

I’m talking about the ladies of Blue Marble Biomaterials, a research and development company that makes products out of plants and where six of the ten STEM leadership positions are filled by women.

As if that wasn’t enough, Blue Marble is also home to Bearhat Beverages, an eco-friendly beverage company that produces a fermented tonic water so sparkly and delicious it’ll knock your d*** socks off. 

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Bearhat, Co.’s signature brew contains live cultures and a whole lot of lemony, herbaceous fizz.

How could a biomaterial company create a fermented tonic, you may ask? Because it’s chock-full of gutsy, badass scientists and business gurus, that’s how.

And here they are to tell you a little more about how they move the world:

 

From top left: Rheanna Dorman, 35, Business Development & Marketing Executive; Coral Main, 27, Accounting Manager; Breana Pabst, 27, Chemical Engineer; Amanda Slater, 32, Vice President of Development; Kellie Hefstetter, Administrative Assistant; Katie Kettler, 25, Analytical Scientist / Quality Technician; Rachael Kropp, 29, Quality Control / Quality Assurance; Allison Wittkopp, 24, Biochemical Engineer; Franny Gilman, 29, Vice President of Research & Development


BB: What makes you feel like a badass?

AW: The look on people’s faces when I tell them my degrees and what I get to do for a living. A lot of older people don’t seem to expect a girl my age to have two engineering degrees. It always makes me grin when I see a look of surprise!

BP: I feel like a badass when I am able to solve problems or overcome challenges that once seemed very difficult. It’s a great feeling when you’re finally able to reach a goal or solution that you’ve put a lot of work into.

CM: Blue Marble is this little company in Montana that these huge food companies come to with the problems they can’t solve and ask us to figure it out for them. And we’re pretty successful at it!

I’ve done so much in my five years with Blue Marble that a lot of people never experience in my field in twice that time and I’m very proud that I’ve come out the other side with that knowledge and knowing how much of an asset I can be.

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BB: How do you feel female scientists are represented? 

AW: I’m lucky to say I’ve had great experiences being a female scientist. The College of Engineering at Montana State was always encouraging, inclusive and fair, in my opinion, and now I work with a bunch of awesome ladies in science as well. It makes me sad to know that others have not had pleasant experiences, but I do think it’s getting better. And I consider myself lucky to have had all the opportunities I’ve had in the [STEM] fields.

KK: I feel like women in STEM fields are getting better recognition, but things still need to improve. While I think women in science are being promoted more through social media, men are still getting more formal recognition.

RK: Women scientists — and women professionals in general — have received a lot more visibility within the last year or two because of smart and funny social media campaigns.  We’re able to connect and share experiences through hashtags like #womeninscience and #distractinglysexy

FG: In the general public, female scientists are gaining more support, but in order to create equal opportunities and to maintain a diverse work-force, we need more support.

Women frequently leave the workforce and academia. A system needs to be put in place that allows us and prepares us to flourish even if we’d like to start a family and continue working while doing so.

BB: How did you end up at Blue Marble?

RK: I applied to Blue Marble about 4 years ago because I was looking for a research and science-based job in a Missoula.  They hired me on and I’ve never looked back.

BP: After graduating and spending a fair amount of time being a ski bum and traveling, I wanted to work for a company that did meaningful and interesting work and also gave me the opportunity to live in a place with ample access to outdoor activities. I was drawn to Blue Marble’s commitment to sustainability and past work with algal biofuels. I reached out to Blue Marble and was lucky that a position opened up not too long after that.

BB: Montana has been recognized as one of the most entrepreneurial states in the country. What has been your experience with the entrepreneurial community?

BP: It’s cool to see new companies starting in Montana, especially in the tech field. We work with a few other companies in the area, and it’s great to be able to share knowledge and capabilities to help us all succeed.

KK: No matter what we or other companies are doing, we are all trying to redefine the status quo. It encourages collaboration and unique approaches to problems.

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BB: When you aren’t working hard breaking glass ceilings in the STEM world, what do you do for fun?

RD: Well, first of all, I don’t believe that I’m personally breaking the glass ceiling, but I do encourage and support the women that I work with who are STEM leaders to share their own stories and spark the movement within our own community. For fun though, I enjoy hiking and biking the Rattlesnake area with my two young boys. Or visiting Montana’s sweet ski hills to teach my kids to snowboard!

RK: In my spare time I enjoy skiing, fixing broken toilets in dive bars, eating pizza, and riding my bike around town.

BB: What motivates you?

FG: Learning new things about microbiology! I’m fascinated by the “unseen” world. As well as working towards a goal of becoming a strong, female leader.

RD: First of all, I am in a place that values me and where I get to bring my whole self to work every day! Also, knowing that my role in this organization’s ecosystem has a positive impact on our client’s businesses and their consumer’s health and environment.

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BB: What do you think our world would be like if people had a better understanding of and appreciation for science?

RD: My perspective as a parent has altered my own appreciation for science. I get to witness the pure excitement and joy my son expresses when he works on a science experiment or when we watch old episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy. His innocent reactions impact the way I now view science. So, I guess if everyone experienced science the way I’m experiencing with my six-year-old, then I would say the world would probably look something like Disney’s Tomorrowland!

AS: We’d all be vaccinated and investing in clean energy.

KK: To me, science is about collaboration and revisiting established ideas. Just because something has worked in the past doesn’t mean it is the most efficient process or even the correct way of understanding a concept anymore. It is a constantly evolving field. I believe that if more people had a better appreciation for science, there would be more encouragement for funding across all STEM fields.

Science allows us to understand the world around us and people should be interested in it.

BB: What inspires you these days?

FG: The strong women I surround myself with continue to inspire me, like my co-workers, friends, and family members. They motivate me to continue to work hard so that women are represented in leadership and decision-making roles.

RK: Lately I’ve been inspired by Janelle Monae’s latest album.  She put down some really badass tracks and visuals about women, power, and her experiences with both.

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BB: What’s your dream trivia category?

CM: Harry Potter, for sure.

AW:  Disney movies and/or soundtracks. I crush it every time. I am not ashamed of this knowledge.

BB: Is there anything else you would like to add?

RD: I love my job!

AS: Go out and grab a P&C Tonic!

 

 


Want to get your hand on a bottle (or a case) of Bearhat Co.’s finest wares? Find yours here.

Stir up a Bearcat-recommended cocktail with one of their signature recipes here.