Just a quick update on what we’ve been up to here in White Sulphur Springs, MT:
We are lucky to be working with Sarah Calhoun and her team at Red Ants Pants.They make comfortable, tough work wear for women. More importantly, they manufacture in the USA and use the proceeds from their yearly Red Ants Pants Music Festival to fund the incredible Red Ants Pants Foundation, which seeks to develop and expand leadership roles for women, to preserve and support working family farms and ranches, and to enrich and promote rural communities.
If you are wondering how one person manages to handle all of this, you aren’t alone, and to understand you’d have to meet both Sarah Calhoun and the amazing team of staff and volunteers that descend on the small town of White Sulphur every year to facilitate the music festival, which just opened its gates to campers today.
First, Sarah. Since we got into Montana we’ve been asking strangers what they know about Red Ants Pants, and they usually know about Sarah and mention how she helped a friend of theirs, or how awesome her music festival is, or how she is an all-around “force of nature” (their words). Even from the brief time we’ve been here in White Sulphur it’s become obvious that since she moved here she’s touched the community and made an impact on its people as a business person, a volleyball coach, a friend, and a party-starter. Today as the camp grounds and concert site were starting to fill with the first brave souls who waited in line on an access road for hours, Sarah was zipping around on an ATV, radio in-hand, rallying her troops like a modern day Montanan Joan of Arc. Here’s a picture I managed to take in a brief moment where she wasn’t in motion (notice the car in the background):
Now, the team. From Red Ants Pants’ core staff of folks to the hundreds of volunteers who fly/drive/bike in from all over the state, country, and world, you will never meet a more welcoming, committed, talented, gracious group of people. Former CEO’s turned art gallery owners, white shark biologists, musicians, bar owners, former hotshot firefighters, architects, and family members all pitch in side-by-side to get the festival site ready and to make sure everyone has a great time and stays safe. You can tell how easy it would be to get hooked on helping out and coming back year after year. It feels like a big family, even to newcomers like us.
What we’ve been up to:
We’ve been doing a mix of business-y type stuff and just helping out where we are able.
Earlier in the week Casey, Amaris, and I helped with a group project of sorting bags and bags of Western-style snap shirts with Red Ants Pants logos into piles by size to be sold at the Festival. It was fun seeing all the crazy patterns and trying some on:
Yesterday I helped organize the drink tokens – a group of 6 of us packed 36 pvc pipes full of 300 tokens each in a neighbor’s wood shop. The central drink token bank of the RAP music festival is worth $54,000.
Today we greeted campers as they lined up in their trucks, RV’s, and motor homes and did some consumer research with them. We asked things like where they were from, how they heard about the festival, whether they were aware that the proceeds went toward the Foundation, etc. We hope to continue to do this research throughout the festival to give Sarah and her team some good customer data and hopefully pull some insights out of it so she can continue to build the festival, the foundation, and the pants business in harmony and expand their reach.
Hicham and I have also been working on some tech/social/marketing plans to reinforce the brand’s reach outside of Montana and bordering states. The great thing about Red Ants Pants is that the brand is so authentic and compelling that it is not a challenge to sell people on it so much as to expose them to it in a cost-effective way.
With a little help from our neighbors and a borrowed hatchet, our campsite is all set up. Casey and Hicham have never camped before, and I’m excited to be a part of their inaugural night under the stars. Tonight there is a “street dance” – they are shutting down main street, and we are apparently going to be taught to two-step.
The population of White Sulphur is around 900 – about the same as our class at HBS. One thing I’ve noticed being here is that folks treat each other differently, with more care and attention, than in larger cities where it’s unlikely you’ll run into the same person again. People are more willing to sit and talk to you, or even share a comfortable silence between topics of conversation, without nervously tapping away at their phones. I’m hoping to steal this and apply it to everywhere I go.
That’s all for now – I’m sure we’ll have more updates later as we move through the week. Thanks for reading!
Hugs from the Road,
Mike & MBAxAmerica Team