Inno-Nations program to help Native business community
February 17, 2017
Gila River Indian News
From a scribble of notes on a paper napkin to retail transactions, Arizona State University is looking for Native entrepreneurs, who want to get a head start on their business.
The ASU Office of American Indian Policy Institute is teaming up with the Entrepreneurship + Innovation program within the University to attract Native entrepreneurs, who would like to participate in the Inno-Nations initiative program.
In an AIPI press release, Director Traci Morris said, the need for programs like Inno-Nations initiative help support the Native business community and contribute to their economies in a sustainable way.
American Indian Initiatives and American Indian Policy Institute Communications Specialist Sharon Tom, “We hope this ‘incubator’ program can help them get their ideas out and really get a solid idea and hopefully develop a strong business strategy by attending [this] program.”ASU will work in partnership with the Maricopa Country Small Business Development Center, the Native American Finance Officers Association and “The Visionary” business magazine, which spotlights local Native entrepreneurs.
The cohort program can expect to accommodate 12-15 individuals, who will go through a three-day program starting in June of this year.
Each day of the program, participants will be introduced into the world of business by industry professionals, who will share their business strategies and success stories.
Tom said the whole purpose for the program, “It’s about taking [their] business idea from conception to something more concrete.”
In order to house the cohort program, The Department, an office space that is a hub of start up businesses activity will be rented out in downtown Phoenix.
It was also chosen because of its central location to Natives coming from all parts of the valley and surrounding tribal communities.
Morris said, “We see the need, and the Phoenix Valley has a very large urban Indian population with a strong commitment to tribal business owners and is surrounded by tribes with tribal enterprises.”
Tom said that among the Hispanic and African-American communities there is a strong presence of support for businesses in their communities, but within the Native community, ASU would like to help Native entrepreneurs create a similar environment.
In March the Inno-Nations program will kick off events that will include a series of talks given by entrepreneurs, who will share their success stories.
Jessica Metcalfe, who is the owner of the online fashion boutique Beyond Buckskin, will be speaking at The Department on March 1.
As a member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Indians, Metcalf started her own online boutique showcasing contemporary Native artist and designers in fashion.
On her website there are over 40 featured artists that create unique fashion designs and accessories that are inspired by the tribes they represent.
Tom said that her part in the Native fashion movement has been a case example of taking an online blog and expanding it out into the retail industry where business transactions are made.
Whether it is beadwork, a traditional image printed on a T-shirt, or an evening dress, each of the garments represents a statement about Natives having a place in today’s fashion design industry.
As a participant in the Inno-Nations program the opportunities are endless for those looking to network and expand their business and are open to any entrepreneur who would like to market their product to a broader audience.
Tom said, “It’s really about helping Native entrepreneurs connect with resources that will help [them] develop the best way of starting their business.”
Anyone who is interested in learning more about the Inno-Nations program can go to Inno-Nations.org, email at Inno-Nations@asu.edu or give them a call at (480) 965-1055.