The “Native Business Top 50 Entrepreneurs” list serves to elevate awareness of the innovation, professionalism, competence and tenacity demonstrated by Native entrepreneurs across Indian Country. Native Business is rolling out profiles of these 50 Native entrepreneurs online, in no particular hierarchy, to document and memorialize their innovation and self-determination. The inaugural class of the Native Business Top 50 Entrepreneurs recognizes leaders across 13 business sectors, demonstrating the diversity of industries where Natives are making an impact. Among the entrepreneurs recognized in the Manufacturing & Constructing sector is JC Seneca, Founder of Six Nations Manufacturing, Native Pride Travel Plaza and BUFFALO Cigarettes.
“I had the idea that if we were going to succeed in business, we had to put ourselves in control of our own destiny,” JC Seneca told Native Business. A member of the Seneca Nation, the serial entrepreneur started his first business in 1987 — selling 60 cartons of cigarettes from his camper. Eventually, that retail operation turned into a 50-acre property and truck stop called Native Pride Travel Plaza, which houses a smoke shop, gas station, high-speed Diesel pumps and a popular diner in Irving, New York.
Seneca also developed and trademarked his own brand of cigarettes: BUFFALO Cigarettes. “I produce my own cigarettes, and I haul my own fuel,” said Seneca, who also acts as motor fuel wholesaler and transporter with his own fleet of trucks. “I’m totally self-sufficient.”
For the past 10 years, Seneca has produced BUFFALO Cigarettes at his tobacco plant, Six Nations Manufacturing — self-capitalized with the income created through his retail business. Seneca currently employs more than 100 people across his enterprises. In 2011, he started the JC Seneca Foundation, a nonprofit committed to advancing healthy living in body, mind and spirit for the people of the Seneca Nation and surrounding communities.