Almost 10 years ago, an experiment in which 46 hops were planted in a 30-acre field has now become a thriving agricultural wholesaler, exporting products to more than 50 countries.

The quiet beginning of testing what can be grown and produced from the small town of Whitefish is now the award-winning Glacier Hop Ranch. Recently, as part of Small Business Week, Glacier Hops Ranch has been recognized by the US Small and Medium Business Administration as the State, Region, and National Exporter of the Year. The business was honored at a ceremony that awarded founder and CEO Tom Blitz all three awards.

Winning only the Montana Small Business Exporter Award was a shock to Blitz, who wanted a top five position, but he was impressed when he heard that Glacier Hops Ranch had won three different levels. ..

“I got a call about the state and region, and I was awesome, it’s just daunting … the news that we win the whole country, it was very humble.” Blitz said. “At that time it was as big a goose bump as it is now. Given all the small businesses in the country, this is a big problem.”

He added that outside such a small town, doing international business, which is now a major part of Glacier Hops Ranch, is great.

“International things are interesting businesses. It requires more work, but most of our business and our growth was really international,” he said. “From Whitefish, Montana, I can only do this to my heart. It’s probably the most amazing thing to me.”

The National Small Business Week recognizes the significant contributions of entrepreneurs and small business owners across the country. According to the SBA, more than half of Americans run or work for small businesses. As part of Small Business Week, the SBA strives to highlight the impact of hard-working entrepreneurs from all 50 states and US territories.

The theme of this year’s Small Business Week, “Building a Better America Through Entrepreneurship,” is “Like millions of small businesses, these awards that helped the US economy overcome the challenges of pandemics.” A comeback designed to emphasize one’s resilience, ingenuity and creativity, “said the release.

“Glacier Hops Ranch, Inc. has disrupted the hop / brewing industry with its innovation and ingenuity, creating new products and processes in the process,” said Brent Donnelly, SBA District Director, Montana.

When the SBA honored the Glacier Hops Ranch, Blitz looked back on the humble beginnings of his business and the successes and failures in the process.

In 2012, Blitz and his wife had a hard time getting out of the Great Recession. They decided to keep a 30-acre ranch on the whitefish, but had to think about what to grow and how to make money.

Pat McGlynn, MSU’s agricultural extension worker, suggested increasing hops.

“I said,’No, I’ve never thought about hop growth,'” Blitz recalls.

But he did some research and tried it. And from there he began his journey to create the Glacier Hops Ranch.

Glacier Hops was the first commercial hop ranch in Montana. Blitz began by growing a variety of hop varieties to see what would grow in a particular climate in Flat Head. All varieties that grew and prospered in Montana were found.

“Our climate here in Flat Head is pretty good for hops, as we know it,” he said.

A few years later, Blitz began experimenting with hops and tried to produce some kind of hop extract. He began to study how to make oil from hops, eventually making what was called hop zoyl, which was produced exclusively by Glacier Hops Ranch. This product is the result of steam distillation of only fresh hops on the farm to capture all the essential oils found in fresh hops in the field.

With the creation of this product, the business changed in 2018, hops were no longer cultivated and embarked on an international export journey. Currently, this business is a two-part model, one on the broker-dealer side and the other on the production of Hopzoil.

Glacier Hop Ranch works closely with Flathead Valley Hops to create products and also export hops grown there.

Glacier Hops Ranch secured its first international customer base in 2018. It is now a thriving company since it has increased staff and learned better about how to do international markets in recent years.

According to Blitz, creating Hopzoyl was the key to entering the international dimension of the business, as the product has a long shelf life, is easy to ship and is inexpensive.

“Due to the very concentrated nature of the product, we were able to ship internationally … and in four days we were able to clear customs-hence, it’s only part of the time and cost,” Blitz said. Said.

International exports have become a major part of Blitz’s business, and he wasn’t really intended that it would go that way. From time to time, we overcome a little luck and many hurdles to create something unimaginable.

And making Hopzoyle, a great product for craft beer breweries around the world, is just “unlucky,” says Blitz.

The SBA assisted Blitz in pandemics and various other ways. The SBA granted Glacier Hops Ranch a working capital loan in 2020, which allowed Blitz to hire the staff and support it needed to grow.

But it was almost always just one show for years, and Blitz says that if you have one key, it’s going to keep asking for help.

“If anyone tells you the secret to your success, I’ll say patience,” he said.

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