Profiles of the Native Business Top 50 Entrepreneurs will enhance Sister Sky, Inc.’s training materials with modern-day ‘case studies’ of creating and scaling businesses. Sister Sky, Inc. was awarded a five-year federal contract from the U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Native American Affairs to train entrepreneurs across Indian Country.
Sister Sky launched as a bath and body care products line in 1999, quickly carving out a strong brand presence in Indian Country. For nearly a decade, Monica Simeon and Marina TurningRobe, the Spokane Tribal citizens and siblings behind Sister Sky, travelled nationwide selling their products to Tribally owned casino resorts.
Tribes and Native organizations, recognizing the power of Native entrepreneurs modeling self-determination, started asking Simeon and TurningRobe to provide training in sales & marketing, workforce development, and technical assistance to their Tribal members.
Those organic and grassroots trainings planted the seed for what would blossom into an entirely new division of their company, Sister Sky, Inc. “It really comes down to one of the tenets of small business: diversification,” TurningRobe said.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 8(a) certified business Sister Sky, Inc. meets the same core values that form the bedrock of their all-natural product line. All business activities are rooted in the sisters’ mission to provide health, wellness and educational resources to Indian Country.
Fast-forward to 2019, and Sister Sky, Inc. has secured a five-year contract from the SBA Office of Native American Affairs (ONAA) to provide specialized training and technical assistance to new and established American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian entrepreneurs in each of the 10 SBA regions, twice a year. Sister Sky, Inc. will also provide four train-the-trainer workshops to enhance the capacity of the Native American Business Resource community.
Native Business Top 50 Entrepreneurs
Upon securing the contract this fall, Simeon and TurningRobe reached out to Native Business Founders and Publishers Gary and Carmen Davis to request the rights to incorporate the Native Business Top 50 Entrepreneurs profiles from the May 2019 issue of Native Business Magazine in their training materials for Native entrepreneurs in the 10 SBA regions across the country.
“Research says that the more the audience or the entrepreneurs can self-identify with other entrepreneurs, it’s really powerful,” Simeon said. “It’s way more impactful.”
She continued, “That issue was such a tremendous resource, and it was so empowering. It was so comprehensive. By that I mean, you could open up the magazine and you could see breweries, you could see law firms, you could see federal contractors, you could see construction companies. It was so wonderful to look to so much diversification within our community. And we thought, this is going to be a really important tool for our curriculum design, but it’s also going to be an important tool for empowerment.”
The Native Business Top 50 Entrepreneurs issue provides an intimate look at the entrepreneurial journeys of modern-day business people in Indian Country. That real-time relevancy provides unparalleled value to readers.
“We don’t have to look to a textbook with business case studies that may have been dated. This is like living-breathing now, and it’s innovative,” Simeon said.
Simeon underscored the sheer talent that exists within Native communities, as exemplified in the pages of Native Business Magazine.
“The Native Business Top 50 Entrepreneurs issue gave a very inspiring portfolio of the level of entrepreneurial talent that we have in Indian Country,” Monica said. “When you are inspiring either startup entrepreneurs, growth entrepreneurs or even seasoned entrepreneurs, there’s always that empowerment piece. It’s always important to hear someone else’s story and understand how they overcame challenges. It’s going to be so impactful with what we’re doing in our curriculum training.”
Simeon and TurningRobe also recognized and related to the enterprising mentality of Gary Davis, a member of the Cherokee Nation, and Carmen Davis, a member of the Makah Tribe. “We’ve identified a partner, a progressive partner in Indian Country, that understands diversification, and we’re partnering with them and demonstrating unity in Indian Country,” TurningRobe said.
Simeon added, “We’re a Native American, woman-owned company, and one of our resource partners is a Native American-owned company, and I think it really demonstrates how we have the resources and the ability within our own community to make an impact.”
Native Business Founder, Publisher and Executive Editor Carmen Davis, a member of the Makah Tribe, commented: “It’s an honor to have the Native Business Top 50 Entrepreneurs issue featured in Sister Sky’s entrepreneurship training materials to be shared with entrepreneurs in the 10 SBA regions across Indian Country for the next five years. We created this content with the intent that it benefit Indian Country for years to come. We’re happy to see our work live on and inspire so many more small business owners across the country.”
Carmen added, “We are very grateful that, as Native entrepreneurs ourselves, not only were we able to identify a void in the media space and fill it with Native Business, but that by lifting up and increasing the awareness of entrepreneurship in Indian Country, we are helping empower Native people across Indian Country today — and for future generations to come.”
Inspiring and Preparing Entrepreneurs Across Indian Country
Through Sister Sky, Inc.’s five-year contract awarded by the ONAA, Simeon and TurningRobe will deliver national training and technical assistance to entrepreneurs across all 10 SBA regions.
“It’s a lofty effort and we take that effort extremely seriously,” TurningRobe said. “We are very, very passionate about this work.”
The partners have expressed their high-level of commitment to Shawn Pensoneau, Program Manager of ONAA. “Small business ownership is important, because this is how we build wealth, intergenerational wealth in Indian Country,” TurningRobe stressed.
When it comes to managing federal contracts, TurningRobe considers it “a labor of love,” she said. “Our spirit is serving our ancestors, and our hearts and hands are serving those not born yet in Indian Country. We are servant warriors to Indian Country.”