GREAT FALLS — Out of 75 nominations, this year's "Five Under 35" honorees have been selected. The first is 34-year-old Jessi Oeleis. The 2005 Great Falls High School graduate co-owns Roe River Boutique with her mom.
“I think when people first think of having an online boutique it probably sounds a lot more glamorous than it really is. There’s no glamour to it,” she laughed.
Like many business owners, Oeleis has faced new challenges over the past year. “We had to get very creative, people weren’t looking for clothes to wear to work, they were staying home. We had to get really creative in the things we were offering,” said Oeleis.
Roe River wasn’t immune to financial setbacks in 2020, but she didn’t let that stop her from helping others. She launched the “Great Falls Strong” campaign which generated more than $7,000 in donations to 60 businesses.
She also invited Roe River customers to donate to her “Adopt A Teen” program. She distributed care packages with clothing, masks, hair products and inspirational messages to 240 teens in the Great Falls area. “There were that many people, that even though it was a tough time for probably the majority, they were still able to say hey here’s $18 we want to help a local teen. It was just really fun to be a part of,” Oeleis explained.
Her dedication and can-do attitude also led to an adapted business model, to help not only survive through Covid, but thrive in the future. She purchased machines that allow her to create and print her own designs in house.
“That’s why we started printing, we just thought we have to rely on ourselves, we can’t just rely on other vendors to get stuff to us because it’s been tough,” said Oeleis.
Each Five Under 35 honoree is asked two questions:
What does Great Falls have going for it, and how can Great Falls improve? Oeleis sees many young people who are choosing to stay in Great Falls or who have moved back and are taking an active role in the community.
As far as how Great Falls can improve, Oeleis thinks it’s all about participation and support. “I think the way we can improve is to really support our local events and when there are people trying to hard to make this a better community, to really try to be involved in all of that. To go to the local events, support local business anyway to keep helping make Great Falls a better place,” Oeleis said.
KRTV’s Shannon Newth created the Five Under 35 initiative as a way to recognize young adults in Great Falls whose attitudes and actions are making our community an even better place to live. Shannon hopes the initiative will boost morale and encourage others to take an active role in the community. Five Under 35 aims to recognize those who are already in the community not only doing amazing things, but who also have an attitude that combats the negativity that is often more contagious. It’s more than a good deeds award. It’s about addressing community concerns through positivity and passion.