Native Business Executive Editor Carmen Davis (Makah/Chippewa-Cree/Yakama) on entrepreneurship: “Don’t let self-doubt sink in. Trust in your talents that the Creator blessed you with and go for it.”
As Native entrepreneurs, first and foremost, we must recognize our worth, then boldly communicate it through our businesses.
Self-worth was the lynchpin for Lakota woodworker Stephan Cheney to self-determine his value and future. The founder of High Rez Wood Company told Native Business, “Initially, 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. I would see work online being sold for thousands of dollars and think to myself, maybe one day, but today isn’t that day.”
When Cheney busted through that self-imposed blockade, his world changed. Today he’s designing gorgeous signature furniture, fulfilling custom order requests that come through social media and word-of-mouth referrals.
And he’s the one motivating aspiring entrepreneurs to see past their perceived barriers to entrepreneurship. “When there is a wall in front of you, find the way over it,” he says. “If you need some help, I’ll build you a stool so we can get over it together.”
I can deeply relate. One of my greatest takeaways since becoming an entrepreneur 20 years ago is this: Once you have created a rock solid plan, go for it. Don’t let self-doubt sink in. Trust in your talents that the Creator blessed you with and go for it. Chase your goals and purpose relentlessly, and when needed, adjust your plan, but don’t quit and don’t give up on yourself. GO FOR IT.
It’s been an honor to own, publish and oversee a multimedia business dedicated to uplifting Native entrepreneurs and advancing business across Indian Country. Launching, building and growing a business requires embracing self-worth. It’s essential that we recognize that we are good enough. We’re competent enough. We’re capable enough. We are not only equipped and worthy, we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors and carry on their inherent self-sufficiency and entrepreneurial grit.
At Native Business, we are advocates for self-determination and self-sovereignty — for Native people investing in ourselves and in our opportunities. We simultaneously push the envelope for greater financial and technical support for Natives to start businesses, while recognizing that we, Native entrepreneurs, just might be the funding change we have been waiting for.
Many of the entrepreneurs we’ve featured on NativeBusinessMag.com, the Native Business App and the Native Business Podcast have applied for and received assistance to capitalize their businesses through the U.S. Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), Native American financial institutions, business incubators and Native organizations.
And many others have taken the initiative to self-fund their dreams. Loretta Guzman, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Fort Hall, Idaho, who opened Portland’s only Native American-owned café, paid her way through school as a barista, and then capitalized Bison Coffeehouse by putting those earnings toward refurbishing her father’s storage facility, transforming it into a stunning coffee shop and bakery. Meanwhile, she kept beading and selling her creations. “My grandma used to say, ‘If you know how to bead, you will always have money,’” she told Native Business.
Entrepreneurship is an ongoing process of self-development, adaptation and perseverance. It’s a continual trial by error, while using all the tools and blueprints at your fingerprints to succeed. Everything you have is on the line. It’s your business, your livelihood.
Michele Justice, the Diné founder of Personnel Security Consultants, can attest that the entrepreneurial journey is laden with challenges — but it’s so worth it. “I’ve heard people talk about the American Dream, and I really didn’t know what that was until I became an entrepreneur, because I really got to do whatever I wanted to do,” she told Native Business. “I got to create whatever I wanted to create; I could develop a product and go out and sell it; I could develop training; and I could make an actual impact on people’s lives.”
Entrepreneurship is absolutely about impact. It’s about creating the kind of world we want to live in, while also providing for ourselves and our families.
I also think it’s vital to reinforce the notion that Native-owned businesses are imperative to building Native economies. I emphasized the necessity of a private sector for an economy to function and thrive in last week’s From the Editor, and I’ll say it again. We cannot create robust Tribal economies without Native-owned businesses. Economy means recirculating $1 in the community seven times before it leaves, and that requires individually owned businesses — not exclusively Tribal enterprises.
A Native economy relying solely on its Tribal enterprises is akin to a city or municipality owning all of the businesses within its borders. It’s not realistic, holistic or sustainable. We need Native entrepreneurs, and we need to invest in them through small-business capitalization and support them by valuing and purchasing their goods and services.
Their success is your success, is our success. When you rise, we rise, we all rise.