4 Native Startups to Watch

Starting a business requires determination and creative problem solving—to acquire the capital to build a business, or to launch with low overhead. In 2018, Native Business Magazine featured several native entrepreneurs who overcame obstacles to create unique businesses. We spotlight four below.

1) Stephan Cheney, a 28-year-old Lakota entrepreneur of the Kul Wicasa Oyate fromt the Lower Brule, South Dakota, hunts for wood around his Northern California home to make his signature furniture.

“I collect a lot of pieces of wood randomly along the way,” says the discerning scavenger. He also has friends and relatives scouting for him.

For Cheney, launching High Rez Wood Company required a self-confidence boost first and foremost. “I had to get over the invisible barrier I had placed in front of myself saying that my work wasn’t good enough to sell,” he told Native Business Magazine (check him out in the December issue of Native Business Magazine as well, where he discusses access to capital to fund High Rez Wood Co.).

Cheney’s dream is to one day have his own wood shop and create furniture in a much larger capacity “than what I am able to do right now in my little laundry room.” For now, he is content “bringing new life to wood” when he is not working full-time for Seventh Generation Fund as the special assistant to the president.

The self-taught furniture artist continues to grow his product inventory. To date, he has created dining tables, coffee tables, benches, cutting boards, serving trays, spoons, paddles and eel hooks, a traditional fishing tool in Humboldt County.

Read the full article on A Former Firefighter Built a Furniture Business From Salvaged Trees

High Rez Wood Co logo (Courtesy Cheney)

2) Thomas Begay (Navajo, Hopi) and his wife Kendra Begay (Navajo, Hopi) saved $15,000 to purchase an old FedEx truck to house Chief Burgers, their gourmet burger and picadilly business on wheels, based in Window Rock, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation reservation.

Native Business Magazine spoke with Thomas Begay about overcoming logistical challenges to launch his business. The enterprising 30-year-old isn’t above dancing roadside and waving a sign to draw customers to his food truck. He’s that proud of his product.

“We’re winning the trust of the people with the quality of the food and the quality of our service,” Begay said.

Begay has high-hopes for expansion. He hopes to bring in and set aside enough earnings to travel to pow wows, operating as a vendor across the country. He also envisions Chief Burgers locations across the country, with logos redesigned to reflect the tribe.

Read the full article: Chief Burgers Founder on Perseverance and ‘Winning the Trust of the People’

3) While Grownup Navajo began as a blog six years ago, Diné entrepreneur Jaclyn Roessel didn’t monetize it until recently.

The Native Entrepreneur in Residence (NEIR) Program, offered through New Mexico Community Capital (NMCC), helped Roessel turn the page from blog to business.

RELATED: Native Entrepreneur in Residence’ Cultivates an Ecosystem of Thriving, Indigenous Business Owners

Her challenge through the NEIR program involved honoring the foundation of Grownup Navajo while building it into a business: “How do I blend the personal brand that I have already created through Grownup Navajo … into a business focused on inclusion and cultural equity from a standpoint that engages cultural institutions like museums and nonprofits?”

Grownup Navajo, LLC is a dedicated to integrating Native American and Navajo teachings into museums, arts & culture organizations and non-profits through: cultural competency trainings, curation, and youth development workshops.

Given her decade-plus of experience at the Heard Museum, among other cultural institutions, her former colleagues, both Native and non-Native, helped spread word about Grownup Navajo to their networks.

Read the full article: Jaclyn Roessel Talks Growing her Business: Grownup Navajo

Photo by Roshan Spotsville

Jaclyn Roessel (Photo by Roshan Spotsville)

4) About three months ago, Marissa Frazier, who grew up on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, opened the doors to her Artistry Salon in Rapid City, South Dakota.

“I have brought that metropolitan vibe to the Midwest. But like many of the mom-and-pop shops around here, we still make people feel right at home when they walk in.”

Frazier’s space is open to independent contractors. Her stylists pay a flat rate of $500 a month for the booth space, which helps cover the lease and utilities. “It’s like I’m the landlord of the business and they are the subcontractors,” she explained.

Frazier says her rental fees are less than what many competing salons charge independent contractors. “I wanted it to be on the low end so that everyone had as much money in their pockets as possible.”

Frazier says it feels “surreal” to be a business owner. However, she is not resting on her newfound success. She is already looking ahead to her next big dream: opening an old-time, traditional barber shop right next door to Artistry Salon in about two years. “We don’t have any barber shops here in Rapid City, so there is definitely a huge hole to fill in that market.”

Read the full article: Native Stylist Brings Metropolitan Vibe to Salon in Rapid City, South Dakota

Hair artist and entrepreneur Marissa Frazier (Courtesy Frazier)






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