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 Art & Tourism sector is Steven Paul Judd, the Kiowa/Choctaw award-winning contemporary visual artist and filmmaker behind Steven Paul Judd, LLC.
Steven Paul Judd had no formal training as an artist or graphic designer. He learned Photoshop through online tutorials. The first thing he sold was a vintage boxing poster featuring Sitting Bull v. Custer. He shared it on Facebook, and it sold on Etsy.
“It was very grassroots. I think what I was making tapped into the zeitgeist of Indian Country,” says Judd.
Judd’s art takes a playful and satiric spin on mainstream culture, often reimagining superheroes and American icons as Native American.
But attaining success required more than innovation. Judd learned early on that he had to take risks.
“Business wise, I wanted to make stickers, and I bought $400 worth of stickers. It was a big, huge, scary decision for me at the time, because my rent was only $580. So, buying $400 worth of stickers was almost a month’s rent. I was so nervous. This was just me in my apartment seeing if I could make a living in art.”
Judd sold out of stickers in two weeks. “That’s when I started buying in bulk. I realized, if I was super rich, I wouldn’t just buy one property and flip it, I’d buy seven. Now I buy huge orders of stickers,” says the Kiowa/Choctaw award-winning contemporary visual artist and filmmaker.
Once he added t-shirts, paintings and more to his portfolio available for purchase, he incorporated as an LLC and hired an assistant. Judd also partnered with TheNTVS.com, a premium Native American streetwear clothing line, to sell his art and designs.
In addition to visual art, Judd has produced several award-winning independent films. His 2015-released short “Ronnie BoDean,” starring Wes Studi as an Indian anti-hero, screened at film festivals worldwide, including in Denver, San Francisco, Toronto, Paris and Germany.
Most recently, Judd is in development with HBO. He penned a script with writing partner Ken Kristensen, an Academy Nicholl-award-winning screenwriter, TV writer and comic book author recognized for writing episodes of the television series’ Happy! and The Punisher (Netflix/Marvel). “It’s like True Detectives on the reservation in the 1970s,” Judd says. “It’s an Indian Country noir.”