UM Awarded $300K for COVID-19 Economic Recovery for Women in Business

The University of Montana’s Accelerate Montana received nearly $300,000 in CARES Act Recovery Grant funding to support COVID-19 economic response and recovery for women in business.

The funds from the U.S. Economic Development Administration will create and support online micro-courses and accelerator programs for rural, Indigenous and urban Montana women interested in or already in business. The programming will address the pandemic’s economic impacts on small businesses and startups, and the courses – while designed specifically for women and their needs – will be accessible and open to all.

Accelerate Montana’s Rural Innovation Initiative (AMRII), established in 2018 to stimulate innovation, job creation and entrepreneurship in rural and Indigenous communities, will manage the grant in collaboration with two other Accelerate Montana programs.

“The need for AMRII has grown since the pandemic has hit businesses hard,” said Karl Unterschuetz, AMRII outreach and development director. “Women-owned businesses are facing a particularly challenging road as they are often burdened with a greater share of child care while starting and running their ventures.”

To provide these services, AMRII will work with Accelerate Montana’s Blackstone LaunchPad and Pursue Your Passions programs. Together, all three initiatives will provide well-rounded entrepreneurial training, coaching and community support.

Earlier this year, UM also partnered with the Missoula Economic Partnership and the Missoula Economic Recovery Task Force to create the Business Emergency Assistance and Recovery Program (BEAR).

“The BEAR program has provided clear insights into the challenges Montana entrepreneurs have faced throughout the evolution of the pandemic and helps us identify programming that can address these challenges,” said Paul Gladen, director of Accelerate Montana and Blackstone LaunchPad.

“Women are being disproportionately, negatively affected by COVID-19,” said Morgan Slemberger, Blackstone LaunchPad’s director of women's entrepreneurship and leadership who oversees Pursue Your Passions. “The National Women's Law Center released data for September that says four times more women than men dropped out of the workforce." 

“The pandemic has only given urgency to something we’ve always known: The world is a better place when women are given the chance to succeed,” said Karlee Snell, Accelerate Montana online program and student manager. “This EDA funding will allow us to lend a helping hand, be a part of the solution and bring that solution to fruition for Montana women.”  


Contact: Karlee Snell, Accelerate Montana online program and student manager, 406-465-6613,