Sarah Calhoun knows a thing or two about butts, hips, and curves. And she celebrates them. Her Montana company, Red Ants Pants, makes workwear specifically designed for women, with all of it—every stitch—made in the U.S.A. The company also operates a foundation supporting women in leadership, working family farms and ranches, and rural communities. In addition, it produces a pretty cool music festival every July.
Calhoun’s been honored as the Entrepreneur of the Year by the State of Montana, but her influence and advocacy for women in business and rural issues extend well beyond Big Sky country. She was the 2012 National Women in Business Champion for the Small Business Administration; has been a delegate to the APEC Women in Business Summit; and participated in a White House forum on jobs and economic development and this year’s White House Summit on Small Business Leadership.
What is the change you’re trying to make in the world?
It all comes down to the human connection.
What sparked you to start a company making work clothes for women?
I needed a damn pair of pants that fit! And none of the companies I talked to told me they would make workwear for women, so I made my own.
What led to the creation of your nonprofit foundation?
Supporting women’s leadership, working family farms and ranches, and rural communities is what I get excited about. I want to share that excitement and support others who are involved with similar initiatives.
What does corporate social responsibility look like in a rural, western community?
Just being a good neighbor. That is all there is to it. Pitch in, listen, work hard, communicate honestly, treat your people well.
What made you decide to start the Red Ants Pants music festival?
I had met so many top-notch people on our Tour de Pants travels, I was inspired to bring them together to see what happened. Nothing is more genuine than a Montana cow pasture as far as creating a space to move people. And music is incredibly powerful to bring folks together.
Plus it’s a heck of a good time, raises funds for our foundation, and helps create a lot of pride for our community.
Tour de Pants?
Tour de Pants was a grassroots marketing effort in which we toured the US in an old Airstream doing pants parties. We had a beer sponsor. It was terrific. Great way to spread the word about the brand and get to know our customers face to face.
From women’s work pants to a thriving music festival—what’s next?
Ahhhh, the million-dollar question. I do want to start recording some of the stories that have happened in the past 10 years of Red Ants Pants. They may or may not make their way into a book.
What’s it like to visit the White House?
The White House was an incredible honor. It was thrilling to be part of the conversation between the public and private sector on how we can collectively do a better job of supporting small business in America. Lots of energy in that town.
What’s the biggest change you’ve made in your professional life?
Trying to slow down enough to take care of myself.
Trying to slow down enough to take care of myself…and those personal relationships in my life.
Change is hard—do you have any tricks you’d like to share for making it easier?
Not having expectations. This is much more difficult than one would think! And I think traveling helps. It forces us to have new perspectives on our lives and mixes up our lifestyle habits.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wish that I could be better at saying no.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A veterinarian. Then once I hit high school I knew I would be doing something I dreamt up.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
Scrambled eggs with garden chives and Dubliner cheese. And coffee with cream of course. You gotta support our dairy farmers.
What are you reading right now?
I’m back and forth between Hemingway, Winner Take Nothing, and Orange Is The New Black by Piper Kerman. Both are pretty fascinating reads. It’s an interesting flip flop between hunting in Africa and life in a women’s prison.
Holly Williams, Lone Bellow, Red Molly, Nathaniel Ratliff, Brandi Carlile, and 90’s country.
No TV. But when I get near Netflix, I love Nashville.
Who inspires you?
Anyone who has the courage to work their butt off for a gutsy dream. And single moms, and working moms. They seem to be able to draw on some deeper pool of energy than most folks do. They take care of everyone else before themselves.
Rock, paper, or scissors?
Rock. Seems hefty enough to get something done. And I like rocks. You can build a lot with rocks.
What is your favorite vice?
I really love hotdogs.
Who is the most progressive business leader you know?
I think every woman who is working a nontraditional job, whether it is a union pipe fitter or a lady in the board room….or in politics. They all deserve some major applause.
What’s one question you’d like to ask yourself—and answer?
When are you going to finally get your online bill pay set up?!?
Next month!! I promise.
Where can we buy a pair of your pants?
You can purchase our workwear on our website or here at our store in White Sulphur Springs, Montana.