DaysAtDunrovin

Hello again, friends! This week we’re going to explore the story of DaysAtDunrovin. This business, based in Lolo Montana, has been referred to as a “Cyber-ranch”.

Intrigued?

Although the term might conjure images of robotic cows in your mind, the animals of Dunrovin Ranch are completely real. It’s the way people interact with them that gives this ranch its technological designation. DaysAtDunrovin utilizes livestreaming cameras around the ranch to broadcast daily happenings to an online platform.

DaysAtDunrovin utilizes livestreaming cameras around the ranch to broadcast daily happenings to an online platform.

Even more interesting than the business itself is how it started. The beginning was simple enough, a camera placed on an osprey nest, livestreaming on the internet. Amazingly, people flocked to the livestream, partaking in a piece of life not readily available to everyone. And not only did they engage with the creatures on camera, but they began to engage with each other. Once a community began to form around this bird’s nest, the opportunity to take this to the next step became evident.

An online platform was developed, specifically for the purpose of fostering the community that was forming around the osprey nest livestream.

More cameras were set up around the ranch to showcase day to day events, opening up the ranch to anyone with an interest in rural Montana life at its finest.

overlooking

Suzanne Miller, the founder of DaysAtDunrovin, is probably the exact opposite of the type of person that comes to mind when one thinks about “tech entrepreneurs”. She’s an older woman, living in rural Montana, but hasn't let that stop her from using technology to create a business to share her rural experience. 

Of course, SuZanne isn't alone. James Wasem is just as vital to DaysAtDunrovin. James handles the tech side of things.

When I asked Suzanne what she would consider the biggest triumph so far, she replied "Finding James!" Adding a new person to her venture brought in a new perspective and new talent.

James has knowledge of technology and business that has been absolutley necessary to the development of DaysAtDunrovin. Together, the two make the perfect team.

Of course, having the perfect team doesn’t guarantee the perfect process. As with any business, particularly a rurally based one, there have been bumps along the way.

One of the first problems that came up had to do with how to fund the business once it was started.

Although advertising has traditionally been a popular source of revenue, it wasn’t right for DaysAtDunrovin. They opted to set up a subscription model instead, where users would pay a certain amount of money to gain access to the platform. This method has, first of all, kept the website free of advertisements and second of all, allowed them to regulate the community standards on their platform.

Living in the world as it is today, its easy to see those around you as nothing more than their opinions, particularly if they’re opposite your own. This is one of the reasons that political and religious discussions are not permitted on the DaysAtDunrovin platform. There is a time and a place for these discussions, and it is not while you’re watching ospreys on your computer alongside friendly strangers. Sometimes being unaware of our differences allows us to connect with people we might never have associated with otherwise.

The next problem that James and SuZanne faced, was the lack of adequate infastructure, which seems to be a barrier to many tech entrepreneurs across the state.

It took two years to install the special hardware that would allow them to have better internet. Because the business is based on live streaming, being able to upload videos quickly is vital.

Another challenge worth noting is the issue of bias.

SuZanne

Suzanne noted that, as an older woman living in rural Montana, she has had to battle with the bias that automatically arises based on assumptions.

Additionally, as she had no experience running a business prior to DaysAtDunrovin there were (naturally) many things that she didn't understand about the process. We all know that you can't know something until you've learned it, but people can still have unrealistic expectation put on those who are still learning. Suzzane said, "ignorance is conflated with intelligence," when it comes to dealing with more "traditional" entrepreneurs. 

There is definite cultural disparity between peope living in rural areas and those living in the city.

It's difficult to understand a person's perspective when they are approaching things at a different angle from your own. This was most obvious when SuZanne was dealing with entrepreneurs from areas riddled with high tech business start-ups such as California. However, she did acknowledge that as the tech industry has spread and matured, bias against “unexcepted” entrepreneurs is beginning to fade.

If you're not yet convinced that DaysAtDunrovin is one of the coolest tech startups in Montana, you will be once I tell you about the impact that it has on people's lives. The immersive nature of DaysAtDunrovin allows those who are physically stuck in one place to escape mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Better yet, bacause of the way that DaysAtDunrovin connects people, it alleviates loneliness, particularly in senior citizens. As the elderly population grows, the loneliness experienced by people in their later part of life is also rising.

According to an article published by the National Institute on Aging on April 13 2019, loneliness and social isolation are linked to many health problems including heart disease and a weakened immune system.

Now, I don't know about you, but when I think about how to solve the loneliness epidemic among senior citizens, a livestreaming ranch is not the first place my mind goes to, or even the tenth, for that matter. However, DaysAtDunrovin has been wildly beneficial for this very purpose.

Subsribers benefit, not only from an online community around the ranch, but, can also participate in a book club, morning yoga sessions, and plenty of other exciting programs. 

bird

Of course, the best part about interviewing entrepreneurs is gaining their entrepreneurial wisdom. SuZanne wants to remind rural people of the advantages that they have in the form of natural resources.

She pointed out that people in the world today are wanting to connect with nature and rural life, something that we have an abundance of here.

Suzanne and James both emphasized the importance of persistence in business endeavors. Persistence leads to success. Sometimes the business isn’t worth it, but unless you stick with it you’ll never know.

That's all for this week! I hope that you've found inspiration in this story. DaysAtDunrovin can be found on their website; daysatdunrovin.com. If you want more information on how to start you own awesome business, you can reach out to karl.untershcuetz@mso.umt.edu or karlee.snell@mso.umt.edu.