January 9, 2017Brown University

Rowing to Succeed, Montana Butsch, IE Brown 2016

Admit it. Your stereotype of a crew member wears preppy sweaters, goes to an elite school, and has a lofty sounding name. Not for long if IE Brown Alum 2016 Montana Butsch has anything to say about it.

Montana is the founder of the Chicago Training Center (CTC), an afterschool competitive rowing program for low-income kids in the Chicago area. Founded in 2006, the program is the largest fully free rowing program in the US and boasts over 300 graduates, many of whom have gone on to compete at the college level. CTC has been covered in major media outlets like the New York Times, CBS News and iHeartMedia.

The following are excerpts from a recent conversation with Montana about how he used his IE Brown Executive MBA experience to develop a business plan for CTC and realize his goal of channeling students from low income communities into the ranks of elite rowing.


A Dream Born at Oxford University:
“The story starts in the 90s when I wanted to be a basketball and football player. I was raised in the inner city of Chicago during the time of one of basketball’s all time greats, the Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan. We all wanted to be like Mike but only a few of us had the needed talent, sadly I did not. I didn’t make it in basketball but in a chance encounter I did discover rowing at my high school and ultimately got recruited into the IVY League.

After watching Hoop Dreams I realized how lucky I was that I didn’t make it in basketball. The movie is a documentary about two gifted college basketball players who never went pro and were quickly forgotten by a sport inundated with players. Had they pursued rowing - a less popular sport in need of diversification - they might have had a brighter future. I promised myself that when I was done rowing at Oxford University - the top of my personal mountain - I would start CTC. I had the access and the experience - an inner city kid that traveled the world because of rowing. Who better to start this than me.”

A Dream Realized at IE Brown:
“IE Brown gave me the skills to build a winning business plan for CTC. It expanded my worldview and how CTC fits into it. The curriculum - from marketing to corporate strategy - and the rigorous examination of problems from multiple angles has proven hugely transferable to CTC as we look to embed ourselves in the community. I’m also forever grateful to my cohort who gave me the opportunity to explore ideas from a broad range of industry and life perspectives and the connections they’ve helped me forge.”

With a Little Luck:
“Luck only helps if you’re ready when it comes your way. Thanks to the work I put into the CTC business plan at IE Brown I was ready to pounce when Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel decided to make the highly industrial and previously neglected Chicago River “the second shoreline” of the city.

The Mayor latched on to our organization and now, through an alliance with the Chicago Park District, we’re Chicago’s community rowing program by proxy and the boathouses’ anchor outreach tenant.”

Rowing in the Right Direction:
“Rowing and business have a lot in common. Both require teamwork, synchronicity, and long term planning. You have to communicate intentionally and commit to repetition over time. In both cases it’s about the team. IE Brown gave me the tools to drive CTC forward as a team with everyone rowing in the right direction.

To learn more about CTC, visit the website here.


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