Two American Indigenous Business Leaders Chapters Take Top Honors in Business Plan Competition

The University of Alaska presented ENA Southwest Contracting, a housing and contracting business located in Bethel, Alaska. Ena means house in Yup’ik. (Courtesy AIBL)

Native collegiate students recently competed in a business competition that simulated what entrepreneurs go through to secure start-up funds, and winning teams shared with judges where they intend to invest their money. 

Two student chapters of American Indigenous Business Leaders (AIBL) took top honors in this summer’s national business plan competition. AIBL is the only American Indigenous non-profit organization solely dedicated to empowering business students in the United States. 

“Leave it to Native students to be ingenious, creative and thoughtful even during a pandemic,” said Prairie Bighorn-Blount, Executive Director of AIBL. 

“AIBL students’ ability to look at their Tribal communities objectively and fill a gap using business skills is truly inspiring. These wins validate what we know about our students and their ability to rise to the occasion, weave in their cultural values, inventiveness and business acumen to design and bring forward sustainable solutions for Indian Country. I couldn’t be prouder of the Montana and Alaska AIBL Chapters,”Bighorn-Blount added. 

Montana State University AIBL Chapter took first place and the University of Alaska AIBL Chapter placed third in the competition, hosted by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development in partnership with UNITY. First and third place winners received $3,000 and $1,000 respectively and both received three complimentary registrations to the 2021 National UNITY Conference 

Montana presented a business plan called Turtle Island Tales™ a service providing holistic wellness, delivering wellness kits to homes, daycares, and schools via a yearly subscription model. The kits will contain books, recipes, and toys for children and parents. Each month a different holistic wellness topic will be addressed such as sleep, stress, diet, physical activity, emotional health and managing screen time. Indigenous values and spirituality will be strongly woven into the wellness kits. The service will evolve to include online, and in-person workshop training sessions for families and facilitators.  

Montana State University AIBL Chapter

The University of Alaska presented ENA Southwest Contracting, a housing and contracting business located in Bethel, Alaska. Ena means house in Yup’ik. The business is focused on helping those affected by the growing challenges of erosion in Southwest AK. Ena’s mission statement is “to provide and maintain affordable housing options for Southwest Rural Alaskans affected by climate change, overcrowding, and harsh weather.”   

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