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Montana business delivering thousands of tea packs to Glacier National Park

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54,000 hand-filled, loose-leaf teabags will find their way to Columbia Falls today in order to be stocked and supplied for lodging and restaurants in Glacier National Park. 

This is the third and largest order that Xanterra Parks & Resorts – Glacier’s concessionaire – has placed with Tumblewood Teas, a women-owned small-business startup that emphasizes sustainability and regional partnerships.

Behind the wheel are Tumblewood Teas co-founders Riza Gilpin and Laurie Rennie, who started the business in Big Timber in 2009. Together, they’ve overseen the Xanterra contract from order fulfillment to this week’s personal delivery across the state with a 14-foot trailer (license plate: HAULNT). The park partnership is just one of many exciting recent growth initiatives for the company.

“Last year, we had an order for 24,000 teabags, which was big for us at the time,” Gilpin said. “This year, when we found out they were doubling their order, we had to hire even more help to complete the order on time. But we’re not complaining – it’s been a lot of fun, as usual.”

Tumblewood Teas specializes in quality teas, ranging from traditional, unblended single-estate varieties to exciting, new custom blends. The company also offers honey and a selection of brewing accessories. With Tumblewood Teas, Gilpin and Rennie aim to capture the “essence of the West.”

Gilpin tells us they have a specialty tea blend just for Glacier National Park called "Peace of the Park" which is an organic Peppermint tea.  You can find that and Earlie Grey Dawn in your hotel room if you stay in the park.

It’s a theme that resonates with both Montanans and those outside the state, as evidenced by the company’s recent contract with Food Services of America, a major food-service distributor operating from the Midwest to the West Coast. Tumblewood is working with the FSA’s Billings office to expand its reach into resorts, hotels, grocery stores and restaurants in Eastern Montana and Wyoming.

“We’ve kind of been taken under the FSA’s wing as an experiment for the big company to try working with local vendors,” Gilpin said. “Normally, you have to go through a broker, and the process of working with a distributor is very corporate. But FSA reached out to us and now we are meeting with their sales team and training them on how to sell the product.”

Gilpin and Rennie credit the Montana & Idaho Community Development Corporation with helping facilitate their small-business journey. The Missoula- and Bozeman-based nonprofit specializes in providing financing to people who do not qualify, in whole or in part, for traditional bank financing. In many cases, these are business startups, business purchases and existing businesses that are light on collateral or short on equity.

“Montana & Idaho CDC provided the financing we needed at a critical point in our growth, when we needed to expand to meet the increasing interest in our tea,” said Gilpin. “They’ve been a partner in every sense of the word.”

“Riza and Laurie are smart businesswomen who know their product and know their market. We couldn’t be more proud to play a small role in their success story,” said Dave Glaser, President of Montana & Idaho CDC. “Not only is Tumblewood Teas expanding its footprint outside Montana, it’s a shining example of the power of small business to create jobs and invigorate communities.”

This summer, Tumblewood Teas will once again move into new territory, this time back home in Big Timber. Having outgrown their existing space, Gilpin and Rennie purchased a 5,200-square-foot building and plan to move the business at the end of June after making improvements to the space.

In 2016, Montana & Idaho CDC loaned $4.9 million to 32 entrepreneurs and small-business owners in Montana. Montana & Idaho CDC’s loans range from $1,000 to $2,000,000 and can be used for purposes such as purchase of real estate, equipment, inventory or an existing business, or for remodeling or working capital. Loan clients also receive one-on-one technical assistance in financial management, marketing, sales and other area of business management.

Glacier National Park isn't the only place where you can find Tumblewood Teas.  Montana State University also carries Tumblewood Teas and besides the park is Tumblewood Tease other large purchase order during the year.

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