Parents Model Entrepreneurial Thinking

To see how Wayne Rebich supports visionary thinking for today's startup companies, start by looking at your coffee filter.

Rebich, who runs a consulting company called Tractionworks in Everett, Wash., acts as a "Contract CFO" for companies in their early startup phase, including Missoula-based Blue Marble Biomaterials. "They’re a very interesting company," Rebich says. "They produce natural flavorings, fragrances and ingredients for food and personal care products, some of which are derived from recycling used coffee grounds from coffee shops in Missoula."

Originally started in Seattle, the company relocated its operations to Missoula a few years ago. "I love UM and Montana, and the people at Blue Marble do as well. Now, the company has a partnership with UM and UM students intern at the company."

When Rebich says he loves UM and Montana, it may be the classic understatement. He’s on the board for the Pacific Northwest Chapter of Montana Ambassadors, one of only two chapters outside the State of Montana. (The other chapter is in San Francisco, which the Pacific Northwest chapter helped establish.) He’s chair of the Davidson Honors College External Advisory Board, which recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of the founding of the honors program at UM. He represents The University of Montana at various college fairs around the Pacific Northwest. He is also a member of the President’s Club, a community of generous donors who have made annual gifts of $1,000 or more to The University of Montana.

The reasoning starts with Rebich’s memories of college. "I really enjoyed the entire experience when I was there, and I have great memories of professors who were phenomenally influential. George McRae was the honors program advisor who guided me through classes," he says. "Teresa Beed, professor of accounting and the director of the master’s of accountancy program, also had a huge impact on me; I’ve used what she taught me in everything I’ve done related to accounting."

That career began at accounting firm KPMG in Seattle, Wash. and then in Auckland, New Zealand. He has also been a vice president of finance for Sonus Pharmaceuticals. "I’ve worked with everything from ground zero startups to large multinational companies," Rebich says.

That love of startups is what convinced him to create his own startup, Tractionworks, in 2002. "I act as a contract CFO for early startup companies. Many of my clients are people who haven’t really started companies before, but they have a great idea for a company or a service. Often they come out of Microsoft or Boeing or other large companies."

Aside from his own degree and his affiliation with Blue Marble Biomaterials, Rebich currently has a very personal connection to UM and Missoula: his daughter Kylie is a sophomore studying accounting and climate change in the Davidson Honors College. She’s a Presidential Leadership Scholar, the current treasurer for MontPIRG, the Montana Public Interest Research Group, and a Global Leadership Initiative Fellow. Kylie had the honor of speaking at this fall’s President’s Club dinner. "I wanted to share the GLI program with everyone at the President’s Club dinner," says Kylie of the event. "I spoke a little bit about how the world is becoming a global society with social media and the internet, and I talked about the program, what we do, how the program works." Rebich and his wife, Wendy attended the dinner. They were beaming with pride as Kylie spoke.

Kylie, for her part, is as committed to UM as her parents. "I had scholarship offers from great schools. I visited four or five of them, and UM just felt like home."

Bringing it full circle, Rebich also points out a connection to the Davidson Honors College itself. "I was in the honors program the first year it started, so I like to tell Kylie she may be the first second-generation honors college student at the University."

Ever the advocate of UM, Rebich was quick to point out why he believes so passionately in giving back to UM. "It’s important for us as individuals who have been served by the University to give back even in a small way," he says. "The Foundation is very good about acknowledging all donations, large or small. Any amount helps UM compete, and bring the best students to the University."