Native Business Grows With Values and Guidance


native_business_grows_with_values_and_guidance-web.jpgBusiness continued to grow in the

Minneapolis Native American community with the latest class of

graduates from the Fall 2013 Plan It! Entrepreneur Training Program

on Jan. 16.

The program is offered by Bii Gii Wiin

Community Development Loan Fund, which was established to promote

home ownership throughout the Native community in Minnesota, in

partnership with Neighborhood Development Center. Eight students in

the program spent 11 weeks, meeting at Bii Gii Wiin offices on

Franklin Avenue, learning how to start a business and complete their

business plans.

The ties between the program and the

Native business community run deep. Mike Goze, American Indian

Community Development Corporation CEO, has a personal and rewarding

relationship with the program. “A

number of years ago, my son Tony when through this exact same class

and we started a company and this year we did somewhere between 6 and

7 million dollars worth of work. The kind of business you want is a

profitable one. That is the key.”


told graduates that aside from profitability, keeping their reasons

for starting a business was important in guiding their work.

“Speaking from experience, sometimes work and profit don’t mean the

same thing. And working harder, doesn’t make it better, it’s like

digging a hole. You don’t want to dig faster. As you’re looking at

business, make sure you’re looking at profit, because that makes a

business successful, it’s not how much you do, it’s how much you

make. Especially as you talk with your kids and your family, because

that’s who you do it for. It is to make a better life for you and the

people coming after you.”


continued to draw cultural parallels. “I truly believe that as

Native folks – and non-Native folks – that entrepreneurism is in

our life. I used to be a ranger for the National Parks Service. I

dealt with prehistoric Indian burial mounds from 500 B.C. And we

found articles in those burial mounds that were from all parts of

this country … because of commerce. People were trading. And so,

our culture, our life is all about commerce, it’s about trading, it’s

about growth. And you can turn that into a livelihood that you can

live with.”

An alum from the Spring 2012 program,

Vaughn Lodge, spoke to graduates about the love and dedication he

commits to his business, Dog Soldier MMA. “For

me, it’s never been about the profit. It’s been about the community

building. One of the exciting things and the thing I loved about Bii

Gii Wiin and NDC was that they make this program available to people

that want to start their own business.”native_business_grows_with_values_and_guidance-web2.jpg


provided the aspiring entrepreneurs some guidance on the realities of

being a business owner. “Another reason why I started my own

business was to have this freedom. Little did I know that as soon as

I graduated from this class and started hitting the road running, it

was insane. So you’re going to be looking at 15 or 16 hour days,

depending on what your industry is. You’re the marketing manager,

you’re the accountant, you’re keeping the books … it’s so much

work. But in the back of your mind, you’re always thinking, ‘this is

my goal, this is my dream, this is what I love doing.’”


emphasized the nature of self-sufficiency in creating a business

that entrepreneurs love. “It’s a learning process. So in 15 hours a

day, you’re looking at doing everything. I literally bought a futon

and blankets and put it in the gym because I would crash out there, I

was so tired. Because I was teaching classes, going to other schools

to learn, continuing education. But then also coming back in the

morning to do book work, marketing, I mean everything, you have to do

it all.”


reminded graduates that it’s important to care about what they do.

“This is all on you, so one of the things I keep in the back of my

mind is that there is not a single person on this planet who is going

to love your business as much as you, not a single person. This is

your business, your baby, so nurture it, take care of it.”

Isabel Chanslor, program trainer and

NDC Business Lab Director, also emphasized the need to support each

others’ business efforts. “Each of you are going to need the

support of one another. I want to be sure that you guys support each

other. Entrepreneurism is not easy. For me, this is a Native American

class in a Native American community. To create a community around

you that lives where you live, looks and talks like you is really

important. There’s a lot of bias out there and a narrative that’s

been created that Native entrepreneurs have to work to break.”

Graduate Scott Lumbar was one of those

to offer assistance to classmates. “My main business idea is to

open a successful IT and computer repair shop for low-income families

and non-profits that need smaller services. I just want it to be

successful in the community.” Referring to Lodge, Scott identified

with the relentless effort that made the journey to being a small

business owner worth it. “I’d like to be success story like these

guys and have something to show for all of my hard work."

Scott was able to secure a micro-loan

to start up his business while participating in the class. “I was

looking for someone to help me with a jump start, to show me what I

needed.” When it came to the details of his plan, Scott was looking

for in-depth assistance, something his trainer was able to provide

him through Plan It! “I tried taking business classes before, but I

didn’t have the right guidance and it wasn’t the closeness that

we had here at NDC.”

Looking back on his participation in

the Plan It! program, Scott reflected that he feels most accomplished

with the completion of his business plan and that it is a useful tool

for anyone to have. “You can refer to it, if you get lost you can

look back on it, and you can expand on your ideas from there. It’s

just a great resource to have.” Overall Scott found his journey was

rewarding. “I’m glad that I completed the program. One of my

goals for myself is to always complete what I start. It makes me feel

like I did what I needed to do,” he said.


spoke highly of NDC and the connections graduates of the Plan It!

Program can make, “I can’t speak enough about them. They have been

there when we needed them the most. I hope you never get in that

position, but if you do, you’ve got to have partners … that have

knowledge. And knowledge comes in many ways, resources, technical and

financial. They have expertise.”


isn’t my first rodeo in the business world. So I’ve had experiences

that some I learned from and some I didn’t because I didn’t pay

attention,” Goze continued. “But I’m a person that believes in

abundance. Don’t limit yourself by yourself. Don’t limit what you can

do by what you do. Think big, think smart. And make sure that you

have people in your corner that can help. I believe that by being

smart, by taking this first step, taking the time to learn … and

keeping the connection alive will help you be successful in your



Spring 2014 Plan It! Program will accept applications until Feb. 21.

Anyone interested in applying for can visit

or call 651-379-8116.

Adjoa Akofio-Sowah, Neighborhood

Development Corporation contributed to this story.

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