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UMW Business Club launches Speaker Series

UMW News Bureau

The University of Montana Western Business Club announces a community gathering and presentation on Friday, March 4 as part of their Bridges for Business campaign. UMW NEWS BUREAU [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="244" caption="Jennifer and Patrick Dwyer."]jenny pat dwyer[/caption] The University of Montana Western Business Club announces a community gathering and presentation on Friday, March 4 as part of their Bridges for Business campaign. The Bridges for Business campaign is an effort to form partnerships between the Montana Western campus and Dillon community. Friday’s presentation will feature Jennifer and Patrick Dwyer, founders of St. George Marine, Inc., who will discuss the benefits and challenges of operating a small business. “We’re trying to bridge the gap between the campus and community,” UMW Business Club President Cory Birkenbuel explained. Birkenbuel and club members have been busy collecting sponsorships for the Bridges for Business campaign. As sponsors, businesses receive publicity through the club’s events, VIP passes to club events, and a direct link to over 1,400 potential student clients at Montana Western. “The Speaker Series is to help educate the students and community about business and to help the students network with the community by giving them a hands-on approach to business,” Birkenbuel added. Birkenbuel said Jennifer and Patrick Dwyer were a perfect start for the Speaker Series. The Dwyers, whose daughter Brenna is currently studying business and equine management at Montana Western, have faced both success and adversity as they grew their business. The Dwyers founded St. George Marine, Inc. in 1986. The Seattle-based business contracts two 100-foot commercial fishing boats for salmon tendering, crabbing, and other fishing off coastal Alaska. Though both Jennifer and Patrick had experience with boats, neither had planned to start such a business. “It was kind of just a weird opportunity that popped up,” Jennifer Dwyer said. St. George Marine consisted of one boat, “The St. George,” for the first six years of the business. Tragedy struck in 1992 when the St. George and its entire crew of six were lost while on a crabbing trip. The Dwyers put the business into hibernation thinking they would never start it up again. After working for other fishing companies, Patrick decided he needed to be his own boss and the couple purchased a new boat, “The Jennifer A,” in 1994 and re-started the business. By 2003 the business had grown enough to justify purchasing another boat, “The Brenna A.” During this time, besides managing St.George Marine, Patrick also worked for Noquest Seafoods and Trident Seafoods, managing some of their vessels and working on other industry related projects. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="250" caption=""The Brenna A.""]brenna a[/caption] The purchase of “The Brenna A” was in keeping with the Dwyer’s philosophy of heavily reinvesting in the company. The purchase meant twice as much work, Jennifer Dwyer said, but it paid off in the end. Beginning in 1996, the Dwyers began what would become an ongoing battle with personal illness. Jennifer contracted cancer of the appendix in 1996. She eventually beat the cancer through surgical removal of the tumors and two years of chemotherapy. Then, in 2000, she contracted thyroid cancer, which she also beat through surgical removal of the tumors. In 2005, Patrick was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Though he still co-manages the business, Patrick is now in a wheelchair and unable to carry out many of the hands-on maintenance he used to do on the boats. The Dwyers’ son, Sean, a talented boatman in his own right, now oversees boat maintenance during the summer months. Their daughter Brenna has also spent time learning some of the bookwork involved in running the business. “It’s been a challenge [dealing with illness and managing a business], but at the same time I think having your own business is a blessing and a curse,” Jennifer said. While health insurance has been a challenge, having their own business has offered the family flexibility and control that has helped to keep St. George Marine afloat while the Dwyers dealt with their illnesses. “The success of the business is a testament to Pat,” Jennifer said of her husband. “His motto is ‘Do it right the first time.’ The thing with Pat and his ALS is that there is no way to do this, dealing with the disease right the first time. In the wheelchair world they don’t do things right the first time. That’s been frustrating for him. It’s been a very big learning curve to just go with the flow.” Learning to “go with the flow” of their lives, the Dwyers continue to persevere and keep St. George a success. When asked what their experience has taught them about starting a business, Jennifer said although they began their business with little planning, it would behoove today’s entrepreneurs to learn as much as they can before embarking on the creation of their own business. “When we started our business it was just about fishing,” she explained. “Over the years it has evolved into paperwork. Pat and I have gotten to where we are just doing it, figuring it out as we go. In this day and age of regulations, I highly recommend people know as much about business before they get started.” The Dwyer’s presentation begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 4 in the Swysgood Technology Center (STC) Great Room on the Montana Western campus. Tickets are $5 and may be purchased at the door.