by John Baden

Bozeman is a special place and Eagle Mount is one of its greatest success stories.  Many people express surprise when I tell them that Eagle Mount is my favorite example of entrepreneurship.  Why are they surprised?  Probably because people associate entrepreneurs only with for-profit enterprises.  However entrepreneurs also create organizations driven by social or environmental goals.  Creativity is the common denominator; it's the key to the success in every case.

badenEaglemount12015 Camp Braveheart at the Enterprise Ranch with Ramona and JohnHere is the essence.  Entrepreneurs discover innovative ways to organize and mobilize people and other resources to produce things people value. (They need not invent things, few do.)  People value far more than financial returns, good habitat, health, and civic responsibility are examples. Entrepreneurs create novel arrangements to achieve these social, environmental, or financial objectives.  

Uber is a for profit example.  Uber provides an alternative to taxicabs regulated by politicians.  Its founders created a mobile app allowing consumers with smart phones to submit trip requests.   Requests are routed to Uber drivers who use their own cars.  Customers evaluate drivers' performances; politeness, responsiveness, safe driving, etc.  Each driver is ranked.  Those with poor marks are weeded out.

Easily spread, the service is available in 60 nations and over 300 cities. Although founded in 2009, last week the Wall Street Journal reported Uber to be worth $50B. Several other companies have copied this model.  "Uberification" disrupts the regulatory order with associated political payoffs.  That's why city governments are so hostile.

Making profit from products is the most obvious driver of entrepreneurial action.  However, it is only one motivating factor.  The creators of The Nature Conservancy and Duck Unlimited were clearly entrepreneurs.  Their founders created opportunities for individuals who valued conservation and wildlife to express their good intentions.  People could volunteer and write tax deductable checks to these 501 c-3 public charities.

badenEaglemount4Enjoying natureEagle Mount, a model of success, harnesses good intentions in a similar manner.  Here is the description of their work from their website.

Since 1982, Eagle Mount has been transforming the lives of people with disabilities and children with cancer. With the help and support of a generous community, Eagle Mount opens up a world of adventures-skiing, horseback riding, swimming, camping, rock climbing, kayaking, cycling, fishing, and more-that foster freedom, joy, strength, focus, and confidence.... Eagle Mount focuses on people’s abilities, while gently supporting their disabilities.

It is voluntarily and most generously supported by the community and local and outside foundations such as the Bozeman Gilhousen Foundation and the M. J. Murdock Trust of Vancouver, Washington.  I have worked with Eagle Mount for many years.  I attest to its quality and understand why foundations, individuals, and firms so generously support its mission.

For over a decade Ramona and I have offered Eagle Mount trout fishing on our spring creek and ponds.  We welcome their small groups but especially enjoy hosting the annual Camp Braveheart where more than fifty children and adults attend.  Last Friday the group returned.  Here is their description of this program:

At Camp Braveheart we serve children from 5 to 10 years old who have or have had cancer and their immediate families. We spend five days with them at Hyalite Youth Camp, just 16 miles outside of Bozeman following one full day of staff training. Activities during this Camp include lots of arts and crafts, plenty of games, kayaking on the reservoir, and anything else under the sun we can do to surround our families with warmth, relaxation, and lots of laughter.

Many people underestimate voluntary contributions to a community's quality of life. Eagle Mount is a sterling example of the sustained accomplishments of well organized and operated charitable causes.

badenEaglemount5Fishing on Quarry Works’ flatstones.We expect civic organizations to help such efforts succeed.  That’s part of their mission.  For example, Bozeman's American Legion Post 14 traditionally provides a picnic lunch for Camp Braveheart's fishing adventure.  They buy, cook, serve, and cleanup after.  When they are here, we never have a mess.

In addition to thousands of individual contributors, Eagle Mount attracts support from hundreds of local firm. Hosting Camp Braveheart benefits from this for it takes considerable work to prepare access to our ponds and streams.  These are wild areas with lots of bank vegetation.  We must be especially careful given the age and conditions of some of the children.  They have enough challenges without contending with branches, weeds, and tall grass. Fortunately, years ago a Gateway firm, Quarry Works, donated several huge flat stones, some 3,000 pounds each, as fishing platforms.    These are permanent fixtures. 

What about the vegetation?  Fortunately, Ramona and I never hire people to do the clearing.  Volunteers always emerge, this year from Dark Horse Customs.  This company is most well known for its $100,000 rock-crawling jeeps and other exotic vehicles.  It provided a crew of three, complete with mowers and weed-whackers.  Although the weather was hot and they had already put in a full day of work, they cleared good fishing access for the children.

Although this column only discusses the Camp Braveheart fishing event, Eagle Mount offers many dozens of others.  They are designed for hundreds of participants of all ages beyond infants.   They include skiing, horse riding, kayaking, rock climbing, swimming, hiking, gardening, and many improbable activities for people with disabilities.  

badenEaglemount6Volunteers from Dark HorseIn 2014 Eagle Mount served nearly 1,800 individuals and had even more volunteers.  In total volunteers logged 30,000 hours of service--and many more were informal, the people from Dark Horse for example who are not counted but are vital for success.

Adam Smith observed this in his non-famous 1759 book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments:  However selfish man may be,
"... there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it." fn

These principles are especially strong in Bozeman.  Fortunately, the community produces entrepreneurs who create opportunities to express this concern for the well being of others.  These qualities help make Bozeman a special place indeed.

 fn  I recommend a recent book on Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments.  It is by one of my favorite economists, Russ Roberts of George Mason University.  How Adam Smith Can change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness.  

 Read John Baden's past columns!


Editor's Note: John Baden found Bozeman in the late 1960s when looking for the best place to build his life.   He explored and ranked every town in the Northwest having a four year college or university.  Bozeman ranked first and he left Bloomington, Indiana in 1970 to accept an offer from MSU. He earned a Ph. D. in economic anthropology from Indiana University and was a NSF post doc in environmental policy.   He founded the Foundation for Research in Economics and the Environment (FREE) in 1985 which his wife Dr. Ramona Marotz-Baden lead.  FREE's mission is to harmonize three oft conflicting values; environmental quality, responsible liberty, and modest prosperity.  John and Ramona live on an irrigated Gallatin Gateway ranch, all but thirty acres of which they placed in a conservation easement.

 

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