Distinctly Montana Magazine

Distinctly Montana Gal Spring 2015

Distinctly Montana Magazine

Issue link: http://digital.distinctlymontana.com/i/478138

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D I S T I N C T L Y M O N T A N A S P R I N G | 2 0 1 5 1 8 Gal LIz MARChI LIveS AND WORKS ON ONe Of The MOST DeSIRAbLe PIeCeS Of GROuND IN WeSTeRN MONTANA. Marchi Angus Ranch is perched atop a river wild, where the frenzied Buffalo Rapids crash through the original canyon of the Flathead River, just outside Polson. She married longtime cattle rancher Jon Marchi in 2005 and the pair run a herd of 225 Angus and 175 Wagyu cattle—the latter of which has helped propagate a rare breed of beef coveted both for its health benefits and its buttery tenderness. But for all those thundering hooves, it is also home base to Montana's first organized angel investment fund. Montana may seem the unlikeliest place for an angel investor group, but Frontier Angels Fund, LLC founder Liz Marchi long ago saw investment in Treasure State enterprise as an obvious choice. Marchi came to Montana from North Carolina in 2000 to head a privately funded economic development corpora- tion in the Flathead Valley. Her post enabled connections with many high net-worth investors, all of whom had private capital and had been seeding companies where profits would be hard won. At that time, opportunities for entrepreneurial funding here seemed few and far between. Banks lend on cash and collateral, and entrepreneurs have neither of those, so an angel investment group seemed a good next step. In her economic development role, Marchi had been working with a company in Libby with a proprietary product extracted from the sap of the Larch (Tamarack) tree, and which eventually found purpose in the hands of hair and skincare giant Aveda. "It was a traditional industry that found a way to pivot and apply a natural product to a $9 billion nutraceutical market," she says. Marchi had heard that RAIN Source Capital CEO Steve Mercil received a large foundation grant to seed capital in rural markets. She founded Frontier Angels as part of the RAIN Source network. Her first fund opened to investors in September of 2000. Frontier Angel Fund, LLC closed in 2006 after raising $1.75 million, and began investing in proprietary products and the entrepreneurs who fueled them. The fund made 19 total investments, she says, with 14 of those still active. The fund's first investment was in a company called GenPrime, which developed a proprietary strip measuring yeast content in liquids, leading to a rapid scan drug test that took the company global. The United States Postal Service has used the GenPrime strip to detect the presence of anthrax. They are a prime example, she said, of how entrepreneurs get into the marketplace and soon discover that their original 'secret sauce' idea becomes something else completely. "But more rare still, MARChI IS AMONG A hANDfuL Of WOMeN IN AMeRICA TO hAve eSTAbLISheD heR OWN ANGeL fuND—The fIRST IN MONTANA Of ANY KIND." Profile of LIz MARChI bY LORI GRANNIS Photo of John and Liz by CouCou Studio W O MA N AT W O RK

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