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Making it in Big Sky: Big Sky Build

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John Seelye, proud founder of Big Sky Build. PHOTO BY DOUG HARE


John Seelye started working for a family friend who owned a contracting business when he was in college. It did not take him long to realize that this was the path that his career would take. Seelye moved out to Colorado from the east coast after college, but when he heard that Big Sky Resort was building a tram, he knew he had to make the move to southwest Montana.

Seelye started Big Sky Woodwork & Design in Big Sky in 1997. He soon realized that his company would need to dive into all aspects of building and construction. Since he had already registered the web address, the natural rebranding as Big Sky Build made sense. A little over two decades later, Seelye’s company, with an office located adjacent to Chopper’s Grub and Pub, employs an average of 25 employees on a year-round basis.

Explore Big Sky: What has been the key to your success?

John Seelye: I really must say that the key to the success of Big Sky Build is the quality of the men and women who make up this company. Also, the support of the Big Sky community over the years has been [an essential] component as well. I couldn’t do it without all of you!

EBS: Do you remember your first customer or first sale?

J.S.: Well, of course. I worked on a yurt for Dan and Sue Delzer.

EBS: What are the biggest obstacles to operating a small business in Big Sky?

J.S.: I would say that there are challenges such as affordable housing for sure, but honestly for the construction trade, it’s making sure we hire people who did not just move here for the boom. I’m lucky to work with coworkers who live here for the quality of life and the powder, of course.

EBS: How has the business landscape change since you started out?

J.S.: Big Sky is a much different town than when I moved here, just matter-of-factly. There certainly is a lot more competition in the construction world, but I take that as a challenge to be better and to always progress. It keeps me motivated.

EBS: What is it about Big Sky that compels you to stick it out through the hard times?

J.S.: Great people, a sick mountain, and it’s a great place to raise a family.

EBS: What is one of the most memorable moments you have had as a resident/business owner in Big Sky?

J.S.: I would say that the economic downturn that started in 2008 was very memorable for all of us. It is because of this community and the hardworking men and women of Big Sky Build that we sustained [our business] and stayed employed—and this current storm cycle might be right up there too!

EBS: What’s the best business advice you’ve received?

J.S.: Hire the right people.

EBS: What advice would you give to small business owners just starting out in Big Sky?

J.S.: You better be in this long term and be ready to work your ass off. And take care of people.

EBS: Where do you see your business in 10 years?

J.S.: Really, I plan on being in a similar spot—doing rewarding jobs for quality clients with the best coworkers you could ever ask for.

EBS: Where do you see Big Sky in 20 years?

J.S.: Deep in powder.

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