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 Food sector is Lee Meisel.
Three years ago, Lee Meisel opened Leeway Franks, a beloved sausage shop and restaurant in Lawrence, Kansas. Meisel and his “tight-knit crew” of employees make the all-natural, locally sourced frankfurters, bratwursts and sausages in- house — a skill Meisel garnered as a teen, working at a butcher shop in rural North Dakota.
“There’s a parallel between indigenous values and resourcefulness — not wasting anything, and making sure that you are doing the best job that you can,” Meisel, Lakota, told Native Business.
In December 2018, Meisel opened his second operation, a door down from Leeway Franks. Leeway Butcher, a full-service, whole-animal butcher shop and retail store, offers “a variety of locally-sourced, humanely-raised meats from small family farms in the surrounding area,” Meisel said.
Reflecting on entrepreneurship, Meisel shared: “I’m a sole proprietor. My whole life is tied up in the restaurant, and my intellectual property in the brand. When you think of it in those terms, decision-making becomes more real. You know you can’t take big gambles. I think having some restriction on funds, it makes you more responsible.”