Jun 5, 2012 9:33 AM by Angela Douglas - Q2 News
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - Nestled in Central Montana, White Sulphur Springs is home to just 900 people. But it's also home to a small business that is gaining national recognition for its unique concept.
"Red Ants Pants," stated the company's owner, Sarah Calhoun. "It popped into my head initially and turns out in an ant colony it's the female ants that do all the work."
A fitting name, since her product is all about catering to hard working women in need of a good pair of pants.
"I grew up on a farm back in New England and got tired of wearing work pants for men," explained Calhoun. "Men's work pants were the only pants available, so it seemed time to make some for women."
But how did this New Englander end up in White Sulphur Springs? You can thank Montana author Ivan Doig for that.
"He grew up in this little ranch town, White Sulphur Springs, and his book was about that," Calhoun said. "So I thought, 'Let's go to White Sulphur!' So I came up here and checked out the town. It had a good feel to it. There was this old, brick saddle shop for sale. So I moved up here and opened the business."
In order for Calhoun to take her company to the next level, she needed more than just her storefront and website.
"We created something called 'Tour de Pants' where we would take an Airstream on the road and do house parties with a beer sponsor and it was really fun getting to know our customers face to face," Calhoun explained.
The pants proved to be a hit nationwide, perhaps because they're all-American. Red Ants Pants are manufactured in Seattle.
"I think there's a growing trend right now where people are realizing the value of a made in America product and the quality and the consistency there within," said Calhoun.
The White Sulphur Springs company prides itself in creating a made in the USA product. But the Red Ants Pants reach well beyond America's borders.
"It was actually Antarctica that was the very first one. I had to call the post office and say 'What is the shipping cost to Antarctica?' And they were like, 'Antarctica? We've never sent anything to Antarctica!' Very fun, so a lot of gals down on the ice there buy the pants," Calhoun said with a laugh. "A lot of Canadians and Australians too."
For many of her clients the pants are more than just work pants.
"Some of these women work totally in a man's world,' explained the business owner. "Whether it's in the union world, plumbing, electrician, agriculture, road work or construction, there's nothing designed to fit them and it means a lot when there's a product out there designed for them."
Women all around the world appreciate the slim or curvy fit of Red Ants Pants and now, so does the United States Small Business Administration.
Calhoun is this year's Women in Business Champion for both Montana and the Nation.
"I think being a woman in business is unique," Calhoun said. "Then adding in that the product is for women as well, in a rural community."
Calhoun has big plans for the future, but her little shop on Main Street won't be going anywhere.
The Red Ants Pants owner will be honored this Thursday for her Montana's Women in Business Champion award.