2021 Native Business Plan Competition

Pictured: First place teams from each division

Winners of 2021 Native Business Plan Competition at Reservation Economic Summit 2021

The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (The National Center) hosted the 2021 Native Business Plan Competition at Reservation Economic Summit (RES) 2021, in partnership with American Indigenous Business Leaders (AIBL) and First Nations Development Institute (FNDI). This year’s competition continued a RES tradition of helping prepare the next generation of Indian Country leaders for future careers in business and entrepreneurship.

Simulating the real-world process of seeking start-up funds, the competition is split into three divisions: High School, Tribal College, and University. After submitting their initial business plans, semi-finalists were flown to Las Vegas to receive mentorship and guidance from Indian Country business experts to prepare for final presentations at RES 2021. The final presentations simulated a ‘Shark Tank’ like setting with judges evaluating the presentations on criteria including viability, market outlook, and the likelihood they’d invest in the company.

In the end, the top-three teams from each division received a cash prize meant to help put the winnings teams’ business plans into action. The 1st place teams were awarded $5,800, 2nd place $1,250, and $750 for 3rd place. Due to a surprise donation made during the competition, each 1st place team received an additional $3,333 on top of the initial $2,500 awarded.

Keep reading below to learn more about the winning teams!

High School Division:

Pictured: First place high school team from Sovereign Schools, along with NCAIED staff

  • 1st place: Sovereign Schools
    • Business: Fresh Fix, a restaurant focused on bringing healthy food to the community with a focus on indigenous ingredients
    • Team members: Isabel WhiteEagle (Cheyenne/Arapaho) and Kiara Pekah (Cheyenne/Arapaho)
  • 2nd place: Tumwater High School, Avanti High School, and Auburn High School
    • Business: VTopia – Mobile VR, a plan to provide a gathering place and social experience for Indian Country youth using virtual reality
    • Team members: Isaac Benally Brooks (Navajo/Cheyenne) and Finley Beckham Barehand (Pima/Navajo)
  • 3rd place: NDO Youth Council of Fort Peck Tribes
    • Business: Sleepi Tipi Resort, where tourists can sleep in traditional tipis while learning about indigenous culture
    • Team members: Antone Manning (Pyramid Lake Paiute), Joshua Bushman (Turtle Mountain), Emily Kinzie (Fort Peck), Katriel Hamilton, Ethan Blount

 

Tribal College Division:

Pictured: First place tribal college team from Navajo Technical University

  • 1st place: Navajo Technical University
    • Business: Early Dawn Coffee, a campus coffee shop using indigenous ingredients to bring a new experience to the university campus
    • Team members: Deeanna James (Navajo/Hopi), Cinandre Dolfin (Navajo), Micheryl Miller (Navajo), Kari-April Gibson, Judith Sam, and Kaitlin Freeland
  • 2nd place: SUNY & Blackfeet Community College
    • Business: Mushroom Farm, selling Native-grown mushrooms to local restaurants and stores
    • Team members: Mariah Gladstone (Blackfeet/Cherokee) and Kenneth Cook (Onondaga)
  • 3rd place: Sitting Bull College
    • Business: Owned by Savages, a hemp clothing line looking to reclaim ‘savages’ for a new generation of Native youth
    • Team members: Jonathan Catch The Bear-Leafe (Standing Rock Sioux), Tabitha Keller (Standing Rock Sioux), Alicia Wadsworth, and Jodi Thunder Hawk

 

University Division:

Pictured: First place university team from University of New Mexico, along with NCAIED staff

  • 1st place: University of New Mexico
    • Business: Maize the Experience, event planning service that can help Native artisans reach new customers
    • Team members: Victor Corpuz (Laguna) and Michael Marquez (Laguna)
  • 2nd place: Gonzaga University
    • Business: KUPU Growth Tours, a tour service with a focus on Native Hawaiian history and culture
    • Team members: Celia Main-Anakalea (Native Hawaiian) and Darcie Pulawa
  • 3rd place: University of Montana
    • Business: Language Planner, helping Native college and university students reconnect with indigenous language while helping organize their schedules
    • Team members: Millie Bearleggins (Blackfeet) and Alicia Archambault

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