GREAT FALLS — Every year, the Great Falls Development Authority celebrates female entrepreneurs through an annual event called 'The Fire Within.'
The community nominates and votes on which women are most deserving of the award. Last year, they received more than 60 nominations, 32 winners were announced.
As 'The Fire Within 2023,' is just over a month away, we checked in with one of last year's winners to get a closer look at their path towards starting their business and being recognized for their contributions to the Electric City.
'All The Things Charcuterie' is one of several shops located inside The Commons in Central Avenue. What began as a home-based business in November of 2020, owners Carie Bates and Melissa McQuillen transformed into a storefront, including Annie's Taphouse, Tres 65, and Al Banco.
Bates said, "We started right during Covid, but for years, we've been talking about what we can bring to Great Falls. Something different. We had a charcuterie night with our friends and thought, 'this is something that we can do here.' We started small by doing Thanksgiving orders and went on to Christmas. Now, it's turned into something that we pretty much make every day."
'The Fire Within 2023' is divided into two categories:
- Inspire Award: This award will go to a Woman Business Owner in operation for 5+ years in an established business that has made a significant personal contribution to its success, growth or expansion. We are looking for a business savvy woman who has helped or is helping other business owners or budding entrepreneurs. The winner will have: five plus successful years in business and mentored at least one other entrepreneur.
- Aspire Award: This award will go to a Woman Business Owner in operation 1-5 years who has recently realized her dream by starting a new venture. Her early success and accomplishments show her creativity, passion and drive.
McQuillen said she had a mixture of reactions when they received the (Aspire) award.
"I remember I was picking my daughter up from piano, and Carie had called me. She said 'guess what,' and it was a crazy week, so I was worried we were getting more orders. Then, she told me we got nominated. We were already catering to events, so we were very excited and surprised, and just honored to be nominated for our hard work we've done the past couple of years."
McQuillen thanked the Great Falls community for the overwhelming support.
"It (the support) has been great," she said. "Everyone has been very supportive. Lots of word-of-mouth for us the first year, while we were getting used to running a business, when we didn't have this kitchen space yet. We were doing a lot of pickup and deliveries. The community has been wonderful and we are working together really well.
All The Things Charcuterie is located at 112 Central Avenue in downtown Great Falls; click here for the Facebook page. To register for 'The Fire Within 2023,' click here.
Questions or comments about this story? Contact Cade by clicking here.