The Making it in Big Sky series is sponsored by the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce and written by the Explore Big Sky staff. 


Behind the scenes of many Big Sky businesses is a robust and passionate support system known as the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce. For 40 years, the chamber has acted as the one-stop shop for local businesses, aiding them in their success through any economic climate with networking events, educational opportunities and industry knowledge. For this special Making it in Big Sky, Explore Big Sky sat down with part of the chamber’s core team—CEO Brad Niva, Director of Business Development Ashley Muckway, Workforce Development Manager Bethany Davies, and Communications and Events Manager Fallon Grant.


Explore Big Sky: What brought you to Big Sky and what is your role with the chamber?

Brad Niva: I was recruited by the Chamber Board of Directors to be the CEO for the Big Sky Chamber. My background in owning three tourism-based businesses in Oregon, as well as years serving on the board of Travel Southern Oregon; I had the resume and the experience to support a tourism business economy. Tourism is a tricky market and fortunately I’ve spent almost 20 years in tourism and half of those years specifically focused on the seasonable businesses.


EBS: What kind of services does the Big Sky Chamber offer local businesses?

Ashley Muckway: Our goal is to create a thriving small business community. We aim to be a one-stop shop for local businesses, providing them with the tools they need to succeed. This includes invitations to our networking events to meet the right people at the right time, the advocacy efforts with governing bodies, or our educational workshops where we bring in local and national experts.


EBS: What is your favorite thing about working with business owners in the area? 

Brad Niva: I have a huge respect for anyone who has stepped up and started, or purchased a business. It’s a huge undertaking and I feel lucky that I’ve been in their shoes. Big Sky is a wonderful place to live and work. However, it’s a tough place to own a business. With staffing challenges, lack of housing and a higher than average cost of living these are all factors that a business owner faces. I have never been a part of a business community that is so involved in facing the issues and persevering to solve them and prosper. It would be easy to throw up your hands and give up, but our businesses do the opposite, they say, “Let’s figure it out!”


EBS: As someone at the Chamber, what feedback do you get from business owners in the area about working and living in Big Sky?

Ashley Muckway: At the chamber, a recurring conversation we have with business owners is the desire for a stronger business community. Big Sky’s fast-paced environment can leave business owners with limited time for networking and collaboration. They seek a platform to forge local connections, share ideas and access current industry information. In addition to the need for this business community, workforce development is another key concern. The idea of fostering the next generation of leaders is crucial to attracting, retaining and empowering a skilled workforce for Big Sky.


EBS: What is a great example that the chamber has been successful in the community? 

Brad Niva: Historically, the chamber has worn many hats in serving the needs of Big Sky for over 40 years. In the beginning, the Big Sky Owners Association and the Big Sky Chamber were the two organizations that were serving the community. Today, you can look back and see that the Big Sky Housing Trust, Visit Big Sky and the Sustainability Network (SNO) all came out of the Chamber of Commerce. The chamber has a history of pulling people together to support initiatives that are important to the community of Big Sky. The chamber is poised to continue in this role and support additional infrastructure initiatives as well as support local businesses with the tools and the advocacy so they can be successful in the future.


EBS: Big Sky is a place of great partnerships—do you work with any other local organizations on any projects or events?

Bethany Davies: We work with Lone Peak High School, Lone Mountain Land Company and engaged high school students to put on the Big Sky Futures Program. Prospera Business Group provides business skill building workshops. We partner with the Gallatin Valley Human Resources Association, our local chapter of SHRM (Society for Human Resource Managers) to provide continuing education opportunities for human resource professionals in the area.

Our signature program, Leadership Big Sky is designed to engage and empower professionals and emerging leaders in our community with a large variety of businesses, organizations and local decision makers.


EBS: Anything we can look forward to from the Chamber this coming spring or summer?

Fallon Grant: This coming spring and summer the chamber has programming that not only benefits our membership but also the community. 

As part of the Big Sky Futures program, on April 19, we will be holding the 2nd Annual Career and Summer Job fair for high school students at Lone Peak High School. 

Breakfast in Big Sky is a new series that aims to give a platform to organizations who have updates and important information to the community. Our next Breakfast in Big Sky is on April 24, Dr. Bertany, CEO at Bozeman Health, will be speaking to the state of our healthcare system.

On June 18, the chamber is holding our 27th Annual Black Diamond Dinner Award. Each year we gather our membership and the Big Sky Business community to honor standouts that exemplify outstanding success and service to our community. 

As always we will be hosting ribbon cuttings for new member businesses, quarterly member meet ups, and other workshops. Be sure to regularly check our events calendar to stay up on what the Chamber is doing!


EBS: Is there any business advice you’ve received that has stuck with you? 

Brad Niva: Probably my favorite saying hung in my moms kitchen my whole childhood and I think it represents the Chamber of Commerce and our role: “Lead, Follow, Or Get Out Of The Way!” Because the chamber has served this community as long as it has, it used to have to lead everything. Today with the wonderful community organizations in place, our role is now to take a step back and fill the gaps in our community. Our newest motto is to, “Be of service and get stuff done.” That might be advocating for better roads, supporting the missing middle of our workforce with additional housing options or supporting a new community group who is focused on welcoming our seasonal workforce.