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.
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.
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.
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.
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.