Inspiring Native-Owned Businesses

Devon Fiddler, founder of SheNative

There are plenty of places to buy soaps, jewelry, and clothes, but not all of them come with inspirational stories like the Native-owned businesses we’ve hand-selected. As we celebrate and learn about the rich, cultural heritage of Native Americans this month, consider exploring one of the businesses below to seek out some inspiration for your own ventures. And while you’re at it, consider emailing one of the owners to see if they would be open to an informational interview! It’s a great way to learn from those who achieved success.

Sequoia Soaps

Sequoia Soaps, founded by Michaelee Lazore, offers a variety of self-care products, including a wondrous collection of sweetgrass products. Lazore is not only a successful business owner, she is a member of the Kanien’kehá:ka tribe. She quit her engineering job to focus solely on Sequoia Soaps, where she has been able to expand her business significantly.

Native American Coffee

Native American Coffee is owned by Native Americans and only offers coffee roasted by Native Americans. Bill McClure, a Muscogee citizen and the company CEO is not only focused on profit. “It is about honoring these traditions of our land and promoting clean water for generations to come”, says McClure.

Etkie

Etkie offers extraordinary Navajo made jewelry that incorporates traditional designs with modern finishes. While there is a history of exploitive practices when it comes to sourcing jewelry, Etkie works to ensure they’re not contributors to this unethical practice. They partner with Native jewelry makers where the jewelers set their own prices. This ensures all their pieces are ethically sourced and contribute to livable wages for those in the community. Count this as proof that you can make a successful business while supporting the workers who make it all possible.

Tocabe

Tocabe, co-owned by Matt Chandra and Ben Jacobs, is the only restaurant in all of Metro Denver that specializes in Native and Indigenous cuisine! They serve traditional Osage Nation recipes along with other ingredients from American Indian cuisine.

SheNative

SheNative is a women-owned boutique, offering handmade clothing and accessories that are absolutely on-trend. The founder, Devon Fiddler, began the business after receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in 2011 and breaking out on her own path after working as a Business Development Coordinator. The boutique is committed to supporting the Native community and offers 2% of all sales to causes that support Indigenous women. As more consumers become conscious about how they spend their money, you may also want to consider how your own venture will support the communities it resides in.

Leech Lake Wild Rice

Owned and operated by the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Department of Resource Management, the business offers high-quality, wild rice. All of the rice is grown and collected in the lakes and rivers of Northern Minnesota. Income earned from their products provides support to the local communities.

Urban Native Era

Located in Los Angeles, this 100% Native-owned brand was founded by Joey Montoya. The company was inspired by the 2012 Indigenous-led social movements and they’re out to keep the conversation on the topic with their edgy apparel. This is proof that some businesses are a result of long-term plans and others, are a result of an unexpected event.

Red Lake Nation Foods

Red Lake Nation Foods is owned by the Cherokee Nation and is located in Minnesota. They offer a variety of traditional and locally sourced foods. Personally, we’re pretty excited about the packaged fry bread mix! If anyone has any fry bread taco recipes they want to share, drop us a line.

Womer & Associates

Rather than being an architectural firm that happens to be owned and operated by Native Americans, they lean heavily into their personal identity. “We blend culture with function to create unique architecture and engineering”, their website states. This is a beautiful example of how nobody should feel the need to lose their identity in pursuit of success.

 

This article is written in celebration of National Native American Heritage Month. If you would like to submit a story or an event, email us at ocpd@redlands.edu.

By Thomas Guzowski, U of R Employee
Thomas Guzowski, U of R Employee Assistant Director of Marketing Thomas Guzowski, U of R Employee