Inc. Magazine, a national publication targeting entrepreneurs and small businesses, recently profiled Mountain Meadow Wool, a Buffalo, Wyoming-based manufacturer and exporter.
Founded in 2002, Mountain Meadow Wool processes about 15,000 pounds of Wyoming wool annually. The company has parlayed state grants into federal Small Business Innovation Research grants and used trade show incentive grants from the Wyoming Business Council, the state's economic development agency, to expand its market nationally and into countries like Canada, Germany, Denmark and Italy.
Mountain Meadow Wool is a member of the Business Council's state-branded Made in Wyoming program. The company was named the regional 2017 Small Business Exporter of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
In 2007, demand for co-founder Karen Hostetler’s fibers increased enough to expand Mountain Meadow Wool. She turned to the Business Council for help securing a new facility. The agency provided nearly $1.7 million to Johnson County through two different grants to purchase a publicly-owned, 25,000 square-foot building and improve infrastructure in the area to assist Mountain Meadow and other local businesses.
Mountain Meadow has also become a hub for other wool mills across the United States to get their product cleaned before processing.
Hostetler designed a proprietary process to machine clean wool with the help of the Wyoming SBIR/STTR Initiative (Small Business Innovative Research/Small Business Technology Transfer). The initiative is a partner organization of the Business Council.
Mountain Meadow received a $5,000 contract from the initiative to pay grant writers and consultants with expertise in procuring federal research money. That initial contract spurred $540,000 in investment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
About 90 percent of Wyoming’s 34,000 businesses employ fewer than 20 people. Helping small firms like Hostetler’s gain a handful of jobs through programs like the SBIR/STTR Initiative has a magnified effect on the state’s economy.
State resources like the Business Development Center, Manufacturing-Works and the Business Council can help others like Hostetler create business plans, secure loans for expansion, learn to export, operate leaner and nimbler businesses and add employees.