From left: Marlene Doney, Business Division chair at Blackfeet Community College; Morgan Slemberger, director of UM’s Women’s Entrepreneurship & Leadership; and Dacia Whitworth, College of Business instructor at Salish Kootenai College. (Credit: Google Impact Challenge)
From left: Marlene Doney, Business Division chair at Blackfeet Community College; Morgan Slemberger, director of UM’s Women’s Entrepreneurship & Leadership; and Dacia Whitworth, College of Business instructor at Salish Kootenai College. (Credit: Google Impact Challenge)

The University of Montana has received a Google Impact grant to support Indigenous women entrepreneurs.

The $850,000 grant will go toward the university’s startup incubator, MonTEC, to help women looking to start or grow a business in Montana, and will help them navigate skills such as writing a business plan and applying for loans.

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“Women of color, in particular, are incredibly underrepresented in business and leadership roles,” Morgan Slemberger, director of Women’s Entrepreneurship & Leadership at UM, said in a press release. Slemberger added that the grant would be used to “supplement the existing strength of Indigenous women by providing them with culturally empowering online courses.”

MonTEC is partnering with Salish Kootenai College and Blackfeet Community College, both community colleges based in Montana, to develop online programming to support women-owned businesses. According to Google, the “Native Women Launch” project will provide “tribally diverse” online courses focused on business ownership and personal finance.

As part of the Google.org Impact Challenge for Women and Girls, 34 organizations around the world received funding to foster more gender equity and improve economic outcomes for women. They include The Q Network in South Africa, which coaches queer women entrepreneurs; Buildher in Kenya, which helps women find jobs in construction; and Girls Inc. of New York City, a financial budgeting app for girls of color. 

The groups were judged on innovation, impact, feasibility and scalability.

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Rachel Andrews-Gould, dean of the Salish Kootenai College Business Division, said the college will develop programs around personal finances, taxes, marketing, business and self-care. The classes will be for Indigenous women, but the impact will reach far beyond them. 

“Every woman we help touches multiple generations and family members,” she said. “Their children, their husbands, their aunties. It will make generational differences.”

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