Change Labs, Native Community Capital, Native Women Lead, and New Mexico Community Capital will launch a new entity to boost locally-driven entrepreneurial ecosystems and economic development in Southwestern Indigenous communities.
Albuquerque, NM — The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded a $3 million grant to four Native-led organizations to establish a new entity that fosters and strengthens entrepreneurship in Indigenous communities across the U.S. Southwest.
New Mexico Community Capital, Change Labs, Native Women Lead, and Native Community Capital will use the grant to establish a new entity that supports the organizations’ collective programmatic and community impact objectives. The new entity will serve as a “backbone” for the four organizations, enabling them to share fundraising, administrative, legal, data, and marketing and communications resources, and offering the potential to establish a fund to invest in Native entrepreneurs. The intention is for the organization to serve Native businesses in the Southwest and use it as a model to develop similar Native-led entrepreneurial support entities nationwide.
A historic lack of under investment by the public, private and non-profit sectors in Indigenous communities has inhibited the development of robust policies, resources and infrastructure needed to leverage entrepreneurial talent for sustainable economic development. Organizations supporting Indigenous businesses and bolstering local entrepreneurial ecosystems themselves lack the resources—both human and financial capital—to scale impactful programs.
“This joint-initiative by our four organizations will empower our and other Native-led organizations to cultivate economic opportunity within our communities, from the ground up,” said Elizabeth Gamboa (Mexican/Apache), Executive Director of New Mexico Community Capital. “Collectively, we represent the largest Indigenous community in the U.S. The Kellogg Foundation’s recognition of our deep local ties, knowledge and expertise, and its generous support, enables us to build upon our shared mission to foster Native American self-determination and promote a thriving economic future in ways that align with our communities’ cultural values.”
“We are incredibly grateful to partner with these Native leaders and organizations who are committed to Indian Country. They understand nation-building in the context of cultural entrepreneurship and economics,” said Natasha K. Hale (Navajo), Program Officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “We have full confidence in their vision of the work and their ability to accelerate this critical work, especially since they have co-designed these entrepreneurship models and programs alongside Indigenous communities.”
Collaborating for the Covid recovery
The four organizations began laying the groundwork for a shared entity at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately struck Indigenous communities and businesses. The pandemic laid bare the lack of sound policy, resources and infrastructure on indigenous lands, obstructing crucial financial relief to Native families and businesses. In response, Albuquerque-based Native Women Lead, kicked off a series of weekly calls and joint advocacy efforts in partnership with Native Community Capital headquartered in the Pueblo of Laguna, Change Labs on the Navajo and Hopi Nation, and New Mexico Community Capital in Albuquerque to identify opportunities to enhance and support each other’s efforts to address the pandemic’s impacts on Native business owners.
“The barriers that undermine the growth of Native entrepreneurship are complex and layered. At the present stage, none of our organizations can effectively tackle the systemic challenges alone,” said Dave Castillo, CEO of Native Community Capital. “The pandemic revealed the urgent need to address these issues in a more robust way. It became obvious that we needed a better approach to leverage our limited capacity and resources if we hope to achieve the depth of impact that we want for our communities.”
“Our combined talent, networks, and assets, and most importantly, our success as a collaborative during the pandemic, confirms our belief that the best solutions are found by working together in community,” Castillo added.
With the Kellogg Foundation’s grant, the four organizations will work together over the next 24 months to establish a guiding vision and strategy for collective impact, catalyze strategic collaboration, and establish milestones and metrics for success.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to build our own evaluation framework around what is relevant to our communities. Native-led and other deeply local organizations are often asked to measure and report on metrics that don’t translate culturally or contextually to their communities. This initiative gives us an opportunity to establish a new baseline that could serve other Native-led organizations and we are grateful for the Kellogg Foundation’s support,” said Heather Fleming (Navajo), co-founder of Change Labs.
To support this work, the partners will leverage existing joint-initiatives and research about the clients and businesses they serve. For example, the organizations are collaborators on Co-op Capital, a novel microlending program designed to provide underserved entrepreneurs with business capital. They also worked together last year on a survey that identified the most urgent pandemic-relief needs across their portfolios, the foremost of which was the need for help finding grants or loans to weather the pandemic.
“This effort is an opportunity to strengthen our ability to create and expand new finance models,” said Jaime Gloshay (Navajo/White Mountain Apache), co-director of Native Women Lead. “The capital access system is broken. To invest in the agency of Native entrepreneurs, we need to develop products and processes that meet entrepreneurs where they are, while acknowledging how capital has historically excluded Indigenous people.”
She added: “As a collective network we can make real progress towards economic sovereignty, not just for Indigenous people but all people denied access to capital and wealth creation.”
New Mexico Community Capital’s mission is to give rise to a more equitable future by providing culturally appropriate tools for success to emerging Native-American owned businesses, Native families, and tribal enterprises.
Native Community Capital’s mission is to advance tribal self-determination by working as a lender and as an honest broker for unlocking the capital resources necessary to build tribal economies.
Native Women Lead’s mission is to revolutionize systems and inspire innovation by investing in Native women businesses. We do this by co-creating with and convening our community to build a coalition, while honoring our culture, creativity and connections.
Change Labs provides business incubation, modern workspace, and kinship-based financing to Native American entrepreneurs across the Southwest.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal innovator and entrepreneur Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special attention is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti.
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Mrs. Davis is the founder, publisher and executive editor of the only Native American wholly owned and operated national tribal business publication, Native Business Magazine, and the producer of the annual and nationally attended Native Business Summit.
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She was named in 2009 as one of the first recipients of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s, “40 Under 40” award which recognizes up and coming community and business leaders from across Indian Country.