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 Consulting sector is Lillie Keener, co-owner of Blue Star Integrative Studio.
After a brief stint as a sole-proprietorship in 2012, under the leadership of founder and principal architect Scott Moore y Medina, Blue Star Integrative Studio, a full-service planning and architecture firm, was incorporated in 2013. Lillie Keener was already an employee at Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Blue Star when the company restructured in 2016, and she was presented with an opportunity for ownership. “Of course I jumped on it,” she told Native Business. “Blue Star is perfectly aligned with my values.”
One of few B Corporations in Oklahoma, Blue Star’s certification demonstrates that the company values employee well-being and positive community impact. “The big names in B Corporations are Patagonia and Ben and Jerry’s,” Keener shared.
As an advocate for sustainably-sourced materials and responsible construction practices, Keener is proud to lead Blue Star. “Some houses that we developed for the Osage Nation were energy-plus rated, so that is lowering the utility bills for the homeowners,” shared Keener, 25, who earned her Bachelor of Science degree in sustainable design at the University of Oklahoma.
Blue Star serves both the private and public sectors, with a focus on rural, Tribal and underserved communities. As a citizen of the Tsa-la-gi (Cherokee) Nation, Keener can relate to the firm’s clients and their unique housing and development needs characteristic of smaller communities.
“We’ve seen a lot of repeat business by word of mouth,” said Keener, adding that their portfolio is diverse, ranging from health care and community centers to master planning. “We have a holistic understanding of different projects and how to approach cultural aspects in a respectful way.”