Native Americans played a significant and yet often unheralded role in shaping the United States. As a result, Native American entrepreneurs often get overshadowed. Other more brash companies and entrepreneurs make more noise, for example on social media and in pop culture.
But November is designated Native American Heritage Month. As a result, this seems a good time to highlight Native American entrepreneurs.
Native American Entrepreneurs
Here are 8 of the best Native American entrepreneurs working in the United States right now.
Stephen Mills (AQIWO)
Stephen Mills takes great pride in his Native American heritage and named his information securities company AQIWO in honor of it. It is the Chumash word for ‘shooting star’. The company has brought in revenues of $2.6 million while Mills is also keen to give something back to his community too: he mentors American Indian youths and business owners on the subject of government contracting.
Dave Anderson (Famous Dave’s Barbeque)
Dave Anderson belongs to both the Choctaw and Chippewa tribes. This certainly qualifies him to appear on a list of Native American entrepreneurs. Anderson founded the Famous Dave’s Barbeque franchise, once voted as the Hottest Restaurant Concept in America by Nation’s Restaurant News. Anderson’s chain now has over 170 restaurants around the country.
Evans Craig (Internet Technology Services)
Evans Craig wants to use his company to help all Native Americans get on the high-speed internet. His firm achieves this aim by providing affordable but good quality technological services. Craig feels great pride for his Navaho heritage — along with some Scottish lineage. And he’s created multiple entrepreneurial ventures on the go. Craig designed a National Network to connect up 49 Tribal Nations for the Council of Energy Resource Tribes.
Henry Red Cloud (Lakota Solar Enterprises)
Henry Red Cloud descended from Sioux chief Red Cloud. The chief made a name for himself with Red Cloud’s War which lasted between 1866 and 1868. During this time he battled with the United States Army for control over parts of Montana and Wyoming. In modern times, Henry Red Cloud founded Lakota Solar Enterprises. The firm manufactures residential solar heaters as well as other alternative energy and conservation devices.
Notah Begay III (KivaSun Foods)
Notah Begay III founded KivaSun Foods in 2010. The company sells fresh bison meat wholesale. For example, products include frozen bison steaks, bison burgers, bison dogs, bison chili and bison jerky.
It is a popular company among Native Americans as bison has been a source for nutritional and spiritual sustenance for generations. The reach of the company spreads out beyond the Native American community too, as bison is a lower fat and higher protein alternative to beef. Not too long ago, KivaSun Foods were awarded a USDA contract asking them to provide 520,000 pounds of bison for inclusion in the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.
David Petite (StatSignal Systems)
As something of a serial inventor, T. David Petite holds multiple patents relating to the likes of networking, activation, remote control and accurate performance monitoring of wireless-enabled devices associated with wireless ad-hoc networks. A member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa tribe, Petite with his company StatSignal invented ‘Smart Meter’ technology and also founded the Native American Inventors Association.
Jo Ann Kauffman (Kauffman & Associates, Inc.)
A member of the Nez Perce Indian Tribe, Kauffman started her non-profit organization with just herself for company and eventually grew it into a 65-member organization over the last 25 years. They help the government and certain commercial organizations realize their goals and affect positive change.
Kaben and Shelby Smallwood (Symbiotic Aquaponic)
Food insecurity on reservations and the challenge of conserving precious water provided two problems the Smallwood brothers decided to solve. In 2012, Kaben and Shelby Smallwood of the Choctaw tribe, founded Symbiotic Aquaponic. The company builds customized aquaponic farming systems.
The company continues to grow massively. And they now offer four standardized backyard systems. The brothers say the aquaponic systems represents a nontraditional form of agriculture. This dates back to Aztecan and Far Eastern cultures. It basically uses a system that re-circulates water. The company hopes to greatly reduce the amount of overall water required to maintain fish farms and grow produce.
Image: Henry Red Cloud, Owner of Lakota Solar Enterprises