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 our Retail sector is Justin Notah.
When Justin Notah went off to college at Colorado State University, his mother gave him a shoebox filled with trinkets from the family jewelry business his father started in 1970. “She wanted me to sell them on weekends to make extra cash for school,” Notah, a Navajo, explains.
After selling jewelry at some powwows, Notah was smitten and jumped into the business full-time. Now 44, Notah, who says he’s married to the business, has been peddling handmade sterling silver bracelets, rings, earrings and necklaces at Native American conferences and jewelry shows for 20 years.
He is both jewelry maker (with his brother Larson) and wholesaler, representing 18 jewelry artists from the Zuni, Hopi and Santo Domingo Pueblo Tribes. His mother, Eleanor, is still by his side ― literally. She, too, owns a sterling silver jewelry business and usually sells in a booth right next to her son.
Notah laughs, “We have some friendly competition going. But she’ll always be my mom.”