President and Owner of Personnel Security Consultants, Michele Justice, Diné, is also a licensed private investigator through the state of New Mexico.
For Michele Justice, as a Diné woman, a desire to impact her community is embedded in the very fabric of her being. “I can’t separate what’s cultural from non-cultural,” she told Native Business. “We always had ceremony; we always had songs; we always had prayer in everything that we did. It’s just part of who we are.”
Hence, Justice has always felt the desire and necessity to give back to her community. “I knew that whatever I learned or acquired throughout my life, there would be a point where I would be giving it back,” she says.
After nearly 20 years of federal service — including overseeing multi-million dollar programs and managing personnel and subcontractors, and establishing a federal security office — that time came in 2004 with the launch of Personnel Security Consultants.
Personnel Security Consultants helps Tribal Nations and Native communities protect their communities and children, and meet federal hiring requirements. The firm employs skilled security specialists and trains Tribes to do proper background checks to protect their children and communities. Today Personnel Security Consultants performs background checks for more than 140 tribes — from the top of Alaska to the tip of Florida.
“We help them in different ways. Some, we do what we call full backgrounds, which means that we will do everything. Some we just process their fingerprints; some we do online searches for them; some we just do social security cases and credit reports,” Justice says.
In a nutshell, Justice became a support system for Tribes.
Here is her heartfelt advice for aspiring entrepreneurs across Indian Country:
“Some of the things that I tell others is: feel free to dream and to go for those dreams,” Justice says.
Unfortunately, some spend their entire lives talking about taking the risk that they ultimately never take.
“Most people don’t do it, because they are afraid that they might fail,” she continues. “If you’re really passionate about something, you probably won’t fail. You’ll probably succeed in some way.”
At the end of the day, all the pains and joys of entrepreneurship are worth it to Justice.
“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 shares.
“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.”
Earning her own pay was empowering the Justice. “I really felt what that meant — to earn my own money. Before I would get a paycheck from somebody, but it was someone else’s money, and they were giving it to me for something that I did for them. As an entrepreneur, you’re literally earning every dollar that you have. This is the American Dream. This is what it’s like to really create something.”
Entrepreneurship is an Indigenous tradition. “Native peoples have been living the American Dream for generations,” Justice adds. “My father is a silversmith, and he’s been living that lifestyle his whole life.”
An organization that helped Justice when she was launching Personnel Security Consultants was the American Indian Chamber of Commerce.
“I’m not even sure where I would be without their support, their encouragement, or their faith in me,” she told Native Business. “They made me feel like I was a business even when it was just me working out of my home. They treated me with the same respect as any other big business.”
Justice is also a proponent of not merely networking but confiding and bonding with fellow entrepreneurs and mentors.
“Stay grounded and let others know what you’re struggling with — because they might have struggled with the same thing, or they may have some ideas for you or some contacts,” Justice says.
“You can be a little bit vulnerable. Sometimes you need a shoulder to lean on,” she adds. “Don’t forget that there are other people out there who can help.”
Personnel Security Consultants has received a number of awards and honors, including the New Mexico SBA Small Business Person of the Year, the Governor’s Award for Outstanding New Mexico Women, the American Indian Business of the Year Award, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Top 100 Businesses Blue Ribbon Award.