HELENA — The Montana Department of Commerce recently announced nearly $100,000 in funding to support the growth of 14 Native American-owned small businesses through the Tribal Tourism Digital Business Development Grant Program.
One of those businesses - Sage & Oats Trading Post in Helena - plans to use the money to establish their online presence.
From Croatia, Japan, Mexico and everywhere else, the shop carries a wide variety of handmade products from different cultures all around the world that have a presence in Montana.
“Part of our audience obviously, and the products that we have, are related to tribes of Montana but we also represent artists that are Scottish, Irish, and Scandinavian,” says Major Robinson, Co-owner of Sage & Oats. “So we really want to celebrate the diversity that exists here in Montana and the different cultures."
Major Robinson and his wife are now taking that diversity online with about a $5,000 grant from the Department of Commerce. Sage & Oats is ready to showcase their whole catalog to the web and hopefully attract more tourists to Helena.
“It's been a bridge for people who have found us on social media. The e-commerce component of the grant helps us to allow people to continue their shopping experience until they can come into the physical store," says Michelle Robinson, Co-owner of the store.
The owners say the store is now easier to spot. You may have noticed Sage & Oats are now located on North Last Chance Gulch. They moved May of 2020, merging with another business after difficulties with the pandemic.
“What it allows us to do is keep two businesses still alive rather than having us both go out of business,” says Major Robinson. “What's been really exciting is a lot of folks that knew us from the other place have followed us here. We're continuing to build our audience and our customer base."
The decision to move to this location benefited Sage & Oats. They are gaining more foot traffic than before and with their new grant, can get their online store up and running in the upcoming months.
The Department of Commerce also recognized Native American businesses being hit hard by the pandemic. The Tribal Tourism Digital Business Development Grant allows these stores to market their products on a digital platform. According to the Commerce, 82% of leisure travelers expressed an interest in exploring sites and experiences related to Native American culture and history.
Sage & Oats Trading Post is located at 424 N. Last Chance Gulch in Helena.