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The New Faces of Native American Entrepreneurship

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Native America has a new breed of entrepreneurs bringing new ideas, innovation, and redefining how business works in Indian Country.

In the contemporary age, tribal gaming enterprises as well as other major ventures are contributing towards tribal economic development, but they are certainly not the “silver-bullet” towards creating functioning, sustainable tribal economies.  Rather, they are only part of the puzzle and share the economic space with tribally-owned and tribal citizen entrepreneurship on multiple levels, from small business to mid-size ventures and beyond.  To diversify tribal economic development along a sustainable continuum, tribal citizen entrepreneurship can and should play a significant role.

What does entrepreneurship mean for American Indian people?  In creating a contemporary entrepreneurial context for American Indians, a perspective that is tailored to accept and honor culture and sustainability, we look towards those featured in this inaugural edition of The Visionary Business magazine.  They are forging new ground in areas of tribal economic planning and development, arts and graphic design, public relations, as well as photography and media relations.  There are amazing Native entrepreneurs throughout Indian Country who are creating solutions for their communities and they are significant contributors to further tribal economic, community development, infrastructure and sustainability.

The bottom-line to a Native American entrepreneur means more than the almighty dollar; rather, it can mean community designed master planned communities, arts with deep meaning and cultural story, culturally-aligned design that manifests Native pride and professionalism and creating spaces and events that provide a cultural experience that both educates and inspires.

Education and Policy

As education costs soar and barriers to reservation-based education are slowly broken down, tribes face the impending threats of permanent loss of their cultural customs and language.  To mitigate and slow these irreparable damages, Native American scholars and educational institutions supporting their work will be significant advocates and knowledge resources for up-and-coming entrepreneurs preparing to apply and implement what they’ve learned back on the reservations.

Arizona State University, American Indian Policy Institute

Dr. Fonda Walters, Ma’iideeshgiizhinii clan, born for the Tł’ízí łání, and enrolled member of the Navajo Nation is the Senior Research Analyst at the American Indian Policy Institute and Faculty Associate within the American Indian Studies program at Arizona State University (ASU).  She has years of research and management experience and teaches courses on innovation and entrepreneurship.  She also works on community level projects that work toward rekindling the American Indian entrepreneurial spirit.

Twitter: @fxwalters

Community Planning and Development

Construction in Indian Country is an on-going struggle and uphill battle for tribes and business owners alike wanting to expand economic growth and development to benefit tribal communities.  Bound by complicated federal regulations and tribal-state laws, not to mention unique tribal operations cultures, it’s a whole new world going into development in Indian Country.  This is why the best chance tribal and non-tribal communities will have to creating sustainable and thriving tribal economies is to cultivate tribal citizen planning and consulting resource groups to bridge the industry and cultural gaps because no one will know a tribe better than its own members who are vested in and know the needs of their community.

Fourth World Design Group LLC

Kim Kanuho is the President of Fourth World Design Group LLC, a 100% Navajo woman-owned planning consulting firm, dedicated to assisting Tribal Nations with their planning, community and economic development needs.  Kim is a member of the Navajo Nation born for the Ta’baaha’ (Water’s Edge People) and Todich’ii’nii (Bitter Water People) clans.  She is an alumnus of Arizona State University’s College of Design where she received her Bachelor of Science in Urban Planning and Master’s in Urban & Environmental Planning.  Kim has over ten years of design experience working in Tribal communities in the planning, architecture, and construction field.

kimkanuho@gmail.com

Visual Arts and Graphic Design

When it comes to the arts and “visual story-telling”, indigenous peoples have it embedded from their soul right down to their finger-tips – literally.  Today, Native American arts, crafts and visual media span the gamut from traditional art forms like weaving, pottery and jewelry making to photography and graphic design with a cultural flare.  If you want to see the world from a contemporary indigenous perspective here are the people you need to meet – and do your next photo shoot or design your shoes.

Largo Photography

Chris and Tammie Billey, both photographers at Largo, are the dynamic duo that create Largo’s unique brand of imagery.  The have been shooting for well over a decade and bring a plethora of experiences to their work.  Largo Photography is located in downtown Chandler in lovely, sweltering Arizona.  Although housed in a boutique studio, Largo prides itself on being one of the most unique location portrait artists in the southwest.

Facebook: @largophotography

Eunique LLC

Originally from the Navajo Nation, Eunique lives with her 7 year old son in the thriving Downtown Phoenix.  She is a creative communicator working to engage, connect and inspire local communities to work together.  Through her curiosity for communication, she creates design experiences and visual stories for her clients and their audiences.  She has 12 years of multi-media experience in the publishing and digital world helping businesses create their identities and brands.  She owns her business, euniQue LLC, providing design and creative services for multiple industries throughout Arizona.

Twitter: @euniQuePHX

 4X Studio

Shon Quannie (Acoma/Hopi/New Mexican) is an experienced creative professional, design educator and principal of 4X Studio.  Since 2007, the Phoenix-based design and print communications company has specialized in brand messaging, marketing communications and creative services for small business, non-profits, tribal, gaming and corporate clients nationwide.  Shon is a Faculty Associate at his alma-mater, The Design School at Arizona State University and an active board member of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Arizona.

Twitter: @4xStudio

Events and Media Relations

Entertaining and “spreading-the-word” of latest events or news are fortes of Native peoples the world over; the only thing that’s changed about that in contemporary Native society are digital media and better equipment.  Pow-wows, fairs and flea markets are no longer the only venues you will see Natives running these days, thanks to social and business savvy entrepreneurs, you will now see Native American produced conferences, fashion shows, arts festivals, media outlets and promotional events nationwide.  Keep these names on your “go-to” list if you have anything that needs to be remotely publicized.

Red Note Inc.

Having received his Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing from Arizona State University, Jason has accumulated more than 18 years of diverse experience in the fields of advertising, business, marketing, production and management.  He currently serves as the President/Owner of Red Note, Inc., a Phoenix-based events agency specializing in designing, planning, and managing intimate to large-scale event productions and promotions.  Red Note, Inc., has produced and co-produced numerous projects and shows such as the VIP party at the 2008 Native American Village at Super Bowl XLII, the NABI “Chasing the Sun” 10K & Health Fair, and The NCAIED’s 2011 and 2012 Reservation Economic Summits (RES Las Vegas).

Twitter: @RedNoteInc

Awe Collective

College dropout turned top of his game, Ty James Largo pilots his ten-employee marketing agency, Awe Collective which reps some of the biggest names and brands in the Southwestern United States. The PR and advertising powerhouse’s client history includes Uber, Fox Restaurant Concepts, Arizona Golf Association, Kimpton Hotels, Arizona Restaurant Association, Phoenix Art Museum, Wrigley Mansion and many more.  As a Navajo-American born in Shiprock, New Mexico, Largo aims to use his culture-barrier-breaking approach to bridge gaps and fulfill unmet needs within Native American tribal government and business.

Twitter: @AweCollective

SmokeFire Media LLC

Amanda June is Editor-In-Chief, head honcho, professional cat-herder and all other duties as assigned as the Owner of SmokeFire Media, a brand spanking-new media company based in Phoenix, AZ.  Amanda started SmokeFire Media and The Visionary Business Magazine after 3 years in the marketing and PR fields and 10 years, combined, working in local and international nonprofits.  Her goals, short term; establish useful publications people will continue to read after the first issue.  Her goals, long term; impact the global community through media – making minority voices the majority.  Most days she can be found playing with her son, running between meetings, writing articles in her pajamas, or sometimes…no, never sleeping.

Twitter: @visionaryeditor

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