Montana State University

MSU’s business and engineering colleges partner with Gianforte Family Foundation to expand Bootstrap Montana entrepreneurial loan program

December 9, 2014

Subscribe to MSU Newsletters

Bobcat Bulletin is a weekly e-newsletter designed to bring the most recent and relevant news about Montana State University directly to friends and neighbors via email. Visit Bobcat Bulletin.

MSU Today e-mail brings you news and events on campus thrice weekly during the academic year. Visit the MSU Today calendar.

MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571

Bootstrap Montana has received $100,000 in new funding from the Gianforte Family Foundation and friends and alumni of Montana State University’s colleges of business and engineering to provide interest-free loans to Montana entrepreneurs, with preference being given to MSU graduates. This new financial support, secured through the MSU Alumni Foundation, will enable Bootstrap Montana to offer its next round of loans to qualifying entrepreneurs and small businesses.

To support hands-on learning, MSU students and faculty members review applications, interview potential borrowers and deliberate on loans to be made.

Growing Montana companies such as Bear Mountain Designs, Foundant Technologies and Roughstock Distillery are among the program’s early success stories. Borrowers are Montana entrepreneurs who have used the funds to hire employees, attend trade shows or undertake other growth-focused initiatives.

For instance, John Walsh of Bear Mountain Designs received a $4,000 Bootstrap Montana loan to help him secure Underwriters Laboratories (UL) approval for his “Greenfan,” a device that helps improve the efficiency and effectiveness of heating and air conditioning systems. UL approval enabled Bear Mountain Designs to have the device marketed through energy saving programs administered by California’s Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Prior to receiving a Bootstrap Montana loan, the company was manufacturing 2,000 Greenfan devices each year. This year, Walsh expects to build more than 50,000, helping to create new jobs in Bozeman, where the device is manufactured.

“I’d really encourage entrepreneurs to apply,” Walsh said. “The Bootstrap Montana loan I received might have been small for the program, but it was huge for me. It provided access to vital cash at just the right time, when I needed to invest in getting my design approved. The Bootstrap review committee is made up of really smart people who ask all the right questions, so it’s important for new loan applicants, before making their pitch, to have their ducks in a row.”

Kregg Aytes, dean of MSU’s Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship, hopes that the new funding will inspire innovation and encourage new applicants, including MSU graduates who want to turn new ideas into successful ventures.

“Our students, whether they graduated with degrees in business, engineering or the arts, bring great creativity and an unparalleled work ethic into the marketplace,” Aytes said. “Bootstrap Montana can help to play a role in their success.”

Built on the business development philosophy of “bootstrapping,” or growing a company without the aid of outside investment or capital, Bootstrap Montana provides entrepreneurs with loans for projects that are expected to provide a fast return on investment. The loans range from $2,000 to $20,000 and are typically repaid within one year. The program is designed to create jobs in Montana, bring new revenue into the state and increase the competitiveness of Montana companies.

“Bootstrap Montana has helped Montana’s innovators to create new jobs and this, in turn, has helped to strengthen our state,” said Greg Gianforte, whose Gianforte Family Foundation has provided charitable funding in support of the program. “Together with Montana State University, we’ve built a model that works and I’m thrilled that this additional support and the next round of applications will help the program and local economies keep growing for the future.”

Bootstrap Montana loan application and review processes are designed for ease and efficiency, After an initial online application, applicants provide a short presentation to a committee that includes MSU students. The committee then makes a decision about the loan within several days.

Small business owners who are interested in the program can learn more by visiting or contacting MSU professor Peter Rubicam at 994-6201 or Those interested in providing additional financial support to the program may contact Jackie Sather at the MSU Alumni Foundation at or 944-6766.

About the Montana State University Alumni Foundation: The Montana State University Alumni Foundation is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation comprised of three entities that serve one mission: "We create lifelong relationships and strengthen our resources to advance Montana State University." The MSU Alumni Association is a membership body that keeps graduates and friends of our University connected to one another and to their alma mater. The MSU Foundation raises significant private financial support and serves as the steward for more than $200 million dollars in total assets from many generous donors. And the MSU Innovation Campus offers powerful opportunities for partners to invest in a creative, entrepreneurial environment that offers state of the art facilities, supports start-up companies and provides students with hands-on learning experiences that can result in employment opportunities upon graduation.


Jason Smith, (406) 570-6066