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Brent Watts started Red Heritage Medical LLC after a 10-year career working in medical device sales and distribution. A member of the Catawba Indian Nation, Brent was inspired to start Red Heritage after attending that year’s United States Public Health Service (USPHS) Symposium in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Based in Knoxville, Tennessee, Red Heritage specializes in doing business with the Indian Health Services, supplying the agency with imaging technology, Orthopedic implants, advanced wound care, and traditional medical supplies. Brent is committed to the notion that Indian Country take health and health care into its own hands, saying that he goes “to work every day to improve our culture.”

Keep reading to learn more about Red Heritage Medical LLC and Brent’s drive to have Indian Country take charge of its own healthcare economy. You can learn more about Red Heritage Medical at www.redheritagemedical.com.

1. Tell us about yourself and your business?

Red Heritage Medical LLC., is based in Knoxville TN. My name is Brent Watts and I am the founder of Red Heritage and a citizen of the Catawba Indian Nation (Rock Hill, SC). Red Heritage holds the only orthopedic implant contract with Indian Health Services (IHS) for a Native-owned company. We offer medical commodities, HTME, and surgical implants. I am a former president and chairman for the Corporate Nation, the section 17 of the Catawba Nation. I set them on their current path of government contracting before I left to start Red Heritage Medical.

2. How has COVID-19 changed your business model?

We have run into numerous challenges with COVID-19, but we see those as opportunities for growth. We see this adversity as a chance to get better. For example, we cannot travel so we have to find different ways to spread the word about our company. We like to think our reputation is at least as effective as face-to-face visits. Also, we have improved our operations to provide our customers more data.

3. COVID-19 has been devastating to many Native American communities. Why is it important for all of us to work together to combat and recover from COVID-19?

Who is better to help yourself than yourself? My uncle, former Sergeant Major of the 75th Ranger Regiment, says frequently “if you have the ability then you have the responsibility.” We have the ability within our communities to take care of our own. I see being Native as an advantage. When I travel for business, I do not focus on selling products, I focus on selling the idea that we can, as Natives, take control of our own health care and our own health-related economy. I see this happening and I want to drive this change. There are very good jobs that are not filled by Natives because they have never been filled by Natives. It is our job to create opportunities for our community.

4. If you were to tell any small business owner about starting and growing their own business what would you like to share with them or what advice would you give them?

Practice the number 1 trait of Catawba Indians: be stubborn. You are going to fail because you are human. But don’t quit – keep going. Focus on your mission, trust yourself, give yourself grace, find allies, gain motivation from detractors, look at success in 5-year increments, pick your battles, and define success not only monetarily but culturally. Represent yourself, your tribe, and your future generations the way you want those who follow you to be viewed. Rise above inter-tribal rivalries and fraud within the tribal and Indian businesses. There are allies at the Indian Health Service who believe Natives should have control of their health care economies and those allies are strong enough to build a successful business.

5. Anything else you want to add?

We can do this across numerous industries. We are strong enough, smart enough, and tough enough but we have to look at the positives and not focus on the obstacles. Think seven generations ahead and realize we are building on top of a foundation built by our ancestors.