Change Labs has announced its latest, innovative offering for entrepreneurs: Popup Pods — 80-square-feet retail spaces for Native artists and professionals to rent by the day. The pods offer an ideal opportunity for startup entrepreneurs to test-drive retail before committing to a full-time space.
Outfitted with Wifi and electricity, the pods meet essential retail needs. Plus, the wood-lined interiors provide a sophisticated backdrop for any product.
An organization that supports business creation, Change Labs is seeking to change the face of entrepreneurship on Tribal lands through programs like its small business incubator and its art residency program, while creating a space to support small businesses in Tuba City through co-working and more.
In May 2019, Change Labs soft-launched with a modified 650-square-foot space on the Hopi side of Tuba City, co-working, as well as business incubation to selected applicants, and most recently, Popup Pods. The 650-square-foot space is free to the community on Fridays and Saturdays between 10am – 6pm DST.
The current rendition “is small,” Heather Fleming, Navajo, Founder of Change Labs, told Native Business Magazine. “But it’s a way to get our [Change Labs] community jumpstarted, while we wait for our 4,000-square-foot building to finish construction.”
Change Labs — the Navajo Nation’s first creative workspace for entrepreneurs and small businesses — drives four core programs: co-working, business incubation, artist residency, and data collecting and reporting.
Co-working: Leapfrogging Barriers to Entrepreneurship
Community members are currently using Change Labs’ small space for free, in addition to taking advantage of the opportunity to attend workshops, meet with business counselors and receive legal advice.
The forthcoming 4,000-square-foot building will provide co-working space (fee for service) to dozens of community members at a time, featuring conference room space and meeting spaces, in addition to many more tools and equipment. “We’ll have desk space people can rent, in addition to all the typical amenities you find in a modern co-working space,” Fleming said.
Business Incubation: Supporting High-Potential Entrepreneurs
Eleven Native-owned start-ups were recently selected from a competitive pool to enter the rigorous Change Labs Business Incubator. The incubator puts entrepreneurs through an intensive 12-18 month incubation program that includes business coaching, marketing, branding, and financial management training. Upon completion, incubator graduates become eligible for up to $10,000 in micro loans for their businesses.
“We’re excited to see the 11 business owners who made the cut put their heads down, work hard, and accomplish great things for their businesses and their communities this year,” said Change Labs Director of Business Incubation Jessica Stago. “Small businesses like theirs are the building blocks of a vibrant, culturally strong economy built by Native people, for Native people. We need to see hundreds more businesses like theirs flourish to drive economic growth, resilience, and independence across Tribal lands.”
Artist Residency: Strengthening the Creative Economy
Change Labs’ new Artist Residency Program is actually an evolution of how Change Labs has been engaging local artists for the past three to four years.
“We hired Native artists to work with the entrepreneurs in our business incubator. They would help us design marketing materials, such as a logo, a business card or signage. For us, it was a great way to take all of our talent as Native artists and channel that talent toward creating and supporting small businesses,” Fleming said.
Now the Artist in Residency program creates a more permanent role to support that vision and goal.
“The artist resident will work with the business incubates. He or she will help them create marketing materials and support their artistic vision. And he or she will also be commissioned by Change Labs to create one public artwork — that’s defined broadly. It could be a sculpture, it could be a mural, it could be a comic book, who knows. One public artwork that illustrates the intersection of Navajo culture and entrepreneurship. Our goal there is really just to instill more pride in our Native identity as entrepreneurs.”
“Doing Business on Navajo” Business Analysis: Providing Evidence for Decision Making
Using hard data, Change Labs will underscore the economic benefit of small businesses on Tribal land and the importance of small businesses in creating a balanced economic strategy.
“The more we can collect that data, the more we can demonstrate that, yes, there is a prominent community of small businesses on Navajo,” Fleming said.