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 Brewers sector is Morgan Owle-Crisp.
Morgan Owle-Crisp, president/owner of Seven Clans Brewing and the Native half (Eastern Band Cherokee) of the Crisp duo with her husband Travis, operations manager/owner, is a serial entrepreneur.
Well-embedded in the hospitality and beverage industry, her first foray into entrepreneurship was her purchase of a company that published and distributed Cherokee books. Now, after 15 years in hospitality, Owle-Crisp has launched into craft brewing in North Carolina, with Seven Clans, the first Native-owned craft brewery in a state with $2.1 billion in craft beer sales in 2018.
But Owle-Crisp’s impetus wasn’t just the love of beer. She was out shopping when she noticed Cherokee symbols that she had grown up with on merchandise, but which were not Native-made. It prompted her to think about the food and beverage industry where “Native designs and concepts are often appropriated, but not Native-owned,” and wondered out loud, “Why aren’t we branding us?”
Then came the moment when she began looking at companies from all over that carried Indigenous names and symbols but had no ties to Tribes and no real thought given to what being Native American meant. Commercialization and mass marketing were separate from the people those symbols came from.
“I thought it was important for Native people to come out and take their stance and show who they are in the industry,” Owle-Crisp said. “It was a matter of how we present ourselves as Cherokee to the rest of the world and how people on the outside look at Na- tive people,” she said.
The importance of having a good message and sharing it with everyone else now drives her brewery business model. Today Owle-Crisp tells the story of her people in everything she does, and reception has been good. The Crisps partnered with a local brewery and debuted their first product at a local casino in March 2018. They now look forward to the day when they can both produce and sell on the Cherokee reservation.