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If you follow our social media pages or have attended a Reservation Economic Summit (RES), you might have noticed the high quality video production pieces promoting the work of the National Center. These media spots are the product of Sky Bear Media, a state-certified disadvantaged Native American-owned small business based out of Olympia, Washington.

Sky Bear Media is a full-service video production company that translates client ideas into compelling video content. The creativity behind Sky Bear Media comes from enrolled Gila River Indian Community citizen, Jeff Barehand, the majority-owner, and Co-Owner, Riley Gibson. Jeff and Riley found each other as filmmakers working on a short film eight years ago. Since deciding to go into business together, they have become the “go to” media team for the National Center, as well as clients ranging from tribal governments, the State of Washington, Fortune 500 companies, and small businesses and non-profits.

This year, Sky Bear was contacted by the Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) to produce content for Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week 2020. MED Week is a weeklong conference that recognizes minority business leaders and creates a venue to discuss issues related to minority business development.

Sky Bear’s partnership with MBDA came after Patricia Luna, who also contracts with the National Center, witnessed Sky Bear’s high quality, fast-paced conference work produced at RES. Patricia, who was the prime contractor for MED Week, introduced Jeff to Erika Jordan, Creative Director for the MED Week conference. Sky Bear was subsequently hired to create over 150 minutes of fully produced content for MED Week.

“I was really happy to hear from Patricia,” said Jeff. “We’ve actually worked together as subs for many of the National Center’s Native Edge Institutes. She’s always a joy to work with; we’re happy she had confidence in Sky Bear’s past performance to give us a call.”


Riley Gibson directs Sky Bear employee Pat Fifelski during MED week


Due to COVID-19, 2020 MED Week was entirely virtual this year. Sky Bear was tasked with producing in mere days an amount of content that would normally take six months to plan and execute.

“This was by far the largest single event conference project we have ever worked on,” said Jeff. “With so many moving parts, the sheer coordination of working apart was a bit difficult, but we managed to get through it. This pandemic has really taught us the art of virtual teamwork.”

The project required Sky Bear to coordinate between fourteen award winners and host Linsey Davis of ABC News, and two East Coast production companies that facilitated remote recording of awardees and the host, and transferring all data files. The work also included the creation of virtual backgrounds, green screen production, graphics creation, and coordination between all teams involved with the Creative Director to ensure her vision was achieved.

“We are thrilled for our friends and partners at Sky Bear Media for their recent success,” said Chris James, President and CEO of the National Center. “They produce exceptional video content and have truly been a part of our team at the National Center. Their ability to capture the work we do across Indian Country has been a huge asset for our organization. They are very deserving of the honor of producing MED Week.”


Jeff Barehand on location in Kodiak Island, Alaska on behalf of the National Center

Sky Bear Media is no stranger to large events, having produced media for every RES since 2018.

“RES helped Sky Bear build the capacity and experience to tackle large projects,” said Jeff. “RES really helped us to develop the right communications skills, workflows, processes, video skills, networks, and technical knowledge to produce high quality content very quickly.”

“The National Center has really opened the possibilities for Sky Bear and has given us the confidence to compete for national projects,” said Riley Gibson. “These past few years, we’ve been so focused on the work, that looking back now, we can really see how far we have come.”

Sky Bear and the National Center’s partnership has blossomed beyond RES, with Sky Bear traveling across the country to film Native Edge Institutes and to document success stories of tribes and American Indian and Alaska Native entrepreneurs.

They have worked closely with John Shoraka, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Gov Contract Pros and the facilitator of many of the Native Edge Institutes. Appropriately and very deservedly, John was named as the MBDA Minority Business Advocate of the Year at MED Week 2020.

“I am tremendously honored to receive the Advocate of the Year award at this year’s MED Week,” John said. “It is a high honor to receive recognition for the work that I do to help small business development within the government contracting field. It was great to see Sky Bear Media at MED Week too, producing all the award winner videos, including mine. I’ve spent some time with Jeff and Riley at the many NEI conferences we’ve worked, and they do great work.”

The partnership with the National Center goes beyond documenting nearly everything that the organization does. Currently, the National Center is helping Sky Bear with strategic and operational planning through their partnership with the SBA’s 7(j) Management and Technical Assistance Program – one of many available programs out there to help small business thrive.

“We are glad that the National Center is there to help us find the right programs, and people, that are helping us be successful,” Riley commented.

“I am really thankful to Chris James and the National Center for believing in Sky Bear Media and accepting our RES videography proposal three years ago,” Jeff continued. “It’s changed the way we do business and elevated our vision for our future. They really are working every day to find new ways to support business in Indian Country. We are proof of that.”

To learn more about Sky Bear, please visit www.skybearmedia.com. You can also check out some of the videos they’ve produced for the National Center on our Vimeo page.

Congratulations to Jeff and Riley, and the entire Sky Bear team. We look forward to working with them for years to come.