By Thao Do, Economic Empowerment Fellow from Vietnam
Today marked the end of our 2-week fellowship and home stay. All of us have come back to Missoula from different parts of Montana and will spend the last few days together here before heading to Washington DC at the end of this week. We all felt extremely happy with our experiences in the last couple of weeks and couldn’t wait to share our stories with one another. The dinner was a reunion party for us all but it also gave us the opportunity to reflect on what we have learned and experienced during our fellowship and home stay. The stories seemed to go on forever and the beautiful memories kept piling up.
For me, looking back on the last two weeks, a lot of things were flashing back in my mind. First of all, it was my exposure to the entrepreneurship scene and business community here that helped me gain insights into the efforts of different stakeholders in boosting the economic development of Missoula and Montana. During a short period of time, I had the opportunity to meet many amazing people who are doing amazing work. What truly inspired me is seeing not only the individual efforts but also the collective efforts of the whole community and how they have collaborated and worked together for common goals. And the MonTec business incubator plays a significant role in providing support for start-ups and small businesses not only limited to office space and facilities. More importantly, what MonTec has been trying to do is to create the sense of community in which businesses can develop relationships with one another and build a stronger network to support for their growth and create more employment opportunities in Montana. In the entrepreneurship context, the Blackstone Launchpad program, even though recently established here, has also made contribution to building the business community in Missoula, Montana by fostering entrepreneurship among students as a viable career path.
Secondly, it was the opportunity to work with my fellowship coordinator Joe and learn from him that I really appreciated and valued during the fellowship period. Sharing a lot of similarities in our work, it was exciting for me to see his approach to solve problems and hear his perspectives on a number of issues regarding entrepreneurship, community building and economic development. Simultaneously, he also provided constructive feedback to my work in Vietnam, and in some way challenged me to rethink the way we have worked and think about how we could do it better. By showing me the way he does business, and telling me what works and what does not work here, he helped me learn different approaches and practices in order to deal with some certain challenges in our work.
Two-week fellowship was too short to develop a long-term relationship but it was long enough to start building the foundation for a long-lasting partnership in the future. What we have done and achieved together during this short period of time will certainly open the door for our future collaboration. The journey will not end here. It will definitely continue into the future.