Native Youth Get Opportunity to See Everything “Out There”

Youth leaders welcome participants to the competition. Photo credit: NCAIED

Youth leaders welcome participants to the competition. Photo credit: NCAIED

It was the chance for Native teens and young adults to see Native entrepreneurs in action. An opportunity to stand before a crowd and present their own innovative ideas. And a unique door-opening to meet role models, explore possibilities and envision a future where they will soon play an active role.

This was the inaugural Native Youth Business Plan Competition at RES 2020, a partnership by First Nations Development Institute and the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) to engage Native youth in business, leadership, and success, made possible by an investment from the 11th Hour Project of the Schmidt Family Foundation.

“The experience showed me what else there is to offer. For people like me to get off Reservation and see what is out there in the world, it opened up a lot of new opportunities,” said Josh Bushman, a student from Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa whose team took first place in the high school division for their project Coffee Cart: Latte for the Oyate.

A partnership for the future
This was exactly the purpose of the Native Business Plan Competition, which grew out of a collaboration between First Nations and NCAIED to let Native students see up close and personal Native business owners and entrepreneurs excelling and thriving in the world and being given a chance to participate themselves.

Chris James, President and CEO of NCAIED, said bringing the two organizations together to highlight students and their ideas just made sense. “We were blown away with some of the ideas that came out of this competition and hopefully we’ll be able to see some of those ideas turned into businesses. It’s our goal to plant that seed,” James said.

“At First Nations, we’ve been building the court, hanging the backboard and finding the balls and the jerseys, and now it’s time for us to put the players on the court,” said Michael Roberts, president and CEO of First Nations. “This is an opportunity for young people to flex that muscle. And we can move forward and get them into business rather than just talking about it.”

Opportunity by design
The competition process began in 2019 when First Nations put out a call to Native communities inviting Native youth to submit abbreviated business plans for their products or companies. From these applications, five semifinalist teams were selected from each age division (high school and college) to receive additional mentoring from Native business owners, entrepreneurs, and other professionals working in this space to further flesh out their business plans and design. Then, semifinalist teams participated in an on-stage competition held in conjunction with the Reservation Economic Summit (RES), where a team of Native judges and investors decided which business venture they would most likely fund.

RES is a multifaceted event from NCAIED featuring unparalleled access to respected tribal leaders, members of Congress, federal agency representatives, state and local elected officials and top CEOs on a national platform. Here, on day three of the event, youth participants honed their projects through a full lineup of workshops: Business Plan Essentials, Perfecting Your Pitch, Assessing Your Business Plan for the Future, and Accessing Capital & Building Your Budget.

Nine high school and college teams then had five minutes to pitch their ideas and business plans outlining the value of their products and services, operational and technological viability, and capital requirements and financial forecasts, and more during the onstage competition later that evening. Winning teams in each division were awarded cash prizes: $7,500 for first place, $5,000 for second place, and $2,500 for third place.

Participants presented their ideas before a panel of Native leaders and entrepreneurs. Photo credit: NCAIED

Participants presented their ideas before a panel of Native leaders and entrepreneurs. Photo credit: NCAIED

First Nations Senior Program Officer Kendall Tallmadge, who helped organize and facilitate the competition, said all participants, from the applicants to the final winners, should be commended. “These students represent a bright next generation of innovation and excitement. It was an honor to be in a position to hear their ideas and see how they are valuing their culture and heritage through innovative business designs to make a difference in their communities.”

Value beyond dollars

Regardless of prize winnings, the experience the students took away from the competition was priceless, said Prairie Blount, who was the advisor for the winning high school team for Latte for the Oyate and who served as the emcee for the event. “It gave the students exposure to the larger Indigenous world. They were amazed that there are so many Indigenous professionals in business,” she said. “As a student, you’re consumed with your campus. But this gave them an opportunity to step outside and see that we’re all working toward bettering our communities. Others are coming along and paving the way.”

Nate Lee, Vice President of Native American Financial Services for BOK Financial who served as a mentor for the High School team Lumbee Nation Youth Enterprise, said that the value of the experience was enormous. “For the students it was a powerful and rewarding experience to compete on a national stage and also to interact with Native professionals in finance and economics.”

The students agreed:

Josh Bushman of Latte for Oyate said he would 100% recommend the program to his friends. His teammate Antone Manning from Pyramid Lake Paiute added that it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience in a unique environment, and that winning was a validation of all his team’s hard work.

Kristall Vega (Cloverdale Pomo), who was on the College first place team, California Indian Museum with their product Acorn Energy Bites, said she loved seeing all the Native youth present on projects they are passionate about to better their communities. “I believe there is a lot of value in experiences like this one because it gives a platform for Native youth to share their voices,” she said.

The Native Youth Business Plan Competition is one of the many ways First Nations invests in Native Youth and gives them opportunities to learn, be mentored, and connect with Native leaders who set an example for collaboration, success and advancement. It’s the type of opportunities that Mentor Nate Lee said are imperative in creating sustained and repeatable financial success in our Native communities. “It must start with our youth, and that includes opportunities to showcase their talents and raise the bar. The future of business is bright for our Native communities as we fill the pipeline of talented and ambitious Native youth, but we must go further to keep that pipeline full by preparing the next class of Kindergartners.”

Indeed, the first-ever Native Youth Business Plan competition will fuel that pipeline, and the 2020 event has built the groundwork for further entrepreneurial opportunities for young people who are ready to explore them.

Advisor Prairie Blount concluded: “These students are the future leaders, who are actually leaders already.”

Participants take home connections, experience and confidence. Photo credit: NCAIED

Participants take home connections, experience and confidence. Photo credit: NCAIED

L.E.A.D. is Coming! Register Now!

LEAD 2016 Square Graphic

First Nations Development Institute will hold its 21st Annual First Nations L.E.A.D. Institute Conference at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa, OK on September 27 – 29, 2016.

LEAD collage 2For more than 30 years, First Nations has worked with Native nations and organizations to strengthen American Indian economies to support healthy Native communities. As an extension of this mission, the L.E.A.D. conference is designed to help emerging and existing leaders in Indian Country network, grow professionally, share ideas and learn new skills related to asset-building.

Training Tracks Offered

Track 1: Nourishing Native Foods & Health
Track 2: Investing in Native Youth
Track 3: Strengthening Tribal & Community Institutions

Attendees have the option of attending sessions in just one track, or they may customize their experience by selecting from any of the sessions that interest them.

Who Should Attend?

  • Native American nonprofit professionals
  • Native Americans interested in launching or expanding nonprofit and/or philanthropic organizations
  • Tribal leaders or those who work in tribal organizations
  • Anyone interested in Native American nonprofits and philanthropy
  • Anyone interested in Native American food sovereignty
  • Tribal economic development professionals

 

REGISTER NOW!

$2 Million in Grants a First Nations Record

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2015 was a record year for First Nations Development Institute (First Nations). During those 12 months, First Nations granted its largest annual dollar amount ever to Native American organizations and tribes. It also awarded the largest number of grants ever in a one-year period. The funding went toward projects aimed at grassroots economic development and Native community betterment, and covered areas ranging from agriculture and food systems, to Native arts-related efforts, to urban Indian centers, to Native youth and culture programs.

During 2015, First Nations awarded a record 103 grants totaling $2,174,494. The grants ranged from $90 up to $120,000, and went to Native organizations or tribes in numerous states, including Alaska and Hawaii. Previously, the annual record for First Nations in its 35-year history was 95 grants totaling $1,867,560 in 2012.

The 2015 amount brings the cumulative total of First Nations’ grantmaking over its history to $24,316,573 and over 1,067 individual grants.

Although First Nations has been able to increase capital for Native community-developed and led projects aimed at building strong and healthy Native economies, First Nations is still only able to meet about 17 percent of the grant requests it receives, leaving a significant unmet need.

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Michael Roberts

“We are very fortunate to be able to support exciting and innovative work taking place in Indian Country aimed at strengthening economies and communities,” said First Nations President & CEO Michael E. Roberts. “But the sheer amount of underinvestment in Indian Country by the philanthropic community continues. We’ll continue to work to increase investment in the dynamic work taking place in Native communities.”

Much of the funding that First Nations receives so it, in turn, can provide grants and other services to Native projects comes from foundations and individual donors. Overall, studies have shown that even though Native Americans make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, only three-tenths of one percent of private foundation funding goes toward Native American causes, even in light of the fact that Native communities generally face significantly higher economic, health and housing disparities than the general population.

By Randy Blauvelt, First Nations Senior Communications Officer

“My Green” Campaign Releases Music Video

First Nations Development Institute’s “My Green” campaign, a social marketing campaign focused on financial empowerment for Native American youth, has just released a new music video that addresses “18 Money,” which is the age at which some Native teens receive a significant financial distribution while they often lack the skills to effectively deal with the windfall.

Theodore “Theo” Brown, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin, wrote and recorded a song titled “Turned 18” about the challenges and pitfalls of receiving a minor’s trust payment. Working alongside the Ho-Chunk Players, a Native youth theater troupe directed by Sherman Funmaker, Theo and the group produced a music video to illustrate a day in the life of a Ho-Chunk youth who “turned 18.” The video was shot over several days this past summer in Baraboo and Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, and is available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsLB8vzk-80.

Ho-Chunk Players on location in Baraboo, Wis. Left to right are Sherman Funmaker, Sylvia Bisonette, Dean Funmaker, Mariah Funmaker and Diana Concha.

It can be called “Minor’s Trust,” “Big Money” or “18 Money,” and for a number of Native American youth, it represents a blessing and a curse. A small number of tribes pay out dividends from tribal businesses, or per-capita payments, to their members. Payments for tribal members who are age 17 or younger are usually held in a financial trust until the youth turns 18. At age 18 (although sometimes later) youth receive a substantial payment and are faced with the responsibility of managing their “Big Money.”

With funding from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, First Nations launched the “My Green” campaign to help Native youth learn to manage their “18 Money.” This includes raising awareness of the challenges and opportunities provided by the minor’s trust payment. The campaign features a website at www.mybigmoney.org that provides a platform for four spokespeople – Native youth ages 17-23 – to present their stories about how they managed their money. They share their lessons learned in several videos, and serve as guides throughout the different components of the website.

23 Groups Receive Native Youth & Culture Fund Grants

In October, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) announced the selection of 23 American Indian and Alaska Native organizations to receive grants totaling $400,000 through First Nations’ Native Youth and Culture Fund, which is underwritten by the Kalliopeia Foundation with contributions from other foundations and tribal, corporate and individual supporters.

The Native Youth and Culture Fund is part of First Nations’ effort to strengthen Native American nonprofit organizations, with the intent to preserve, strengthen and/or renew American Indian culture and tradition among tribal youth. The grants support the projects and provide capacity-building and training to the organizations’ staff members. All of the funded projects demonstrate creative and innovative approaches, whether through traditional knowledge, art, language or a program or business enterprise.

The complete list of grantees and their project descriptions can be found here: http://www.firstnations.org/node/630. The projects cover a variety of areas, including youth-elder intergenerational programs, cultivating responsibility and leadership, language programs, traditional foods and farming, wellness, history and cultural documentation.

Tribal entities represented in this year’s awards include the Northern Cheyenne, Cochiti, Dakotah/Dakota, Lakota, Euchee, Mohawk, Grand Ronde, Lumbee, Lummi, Menominee, Diné/Navajo, Nez Perce, Santa Ana, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Quinault, Santo Domingo, Haida and Zuni.

‘My Green’ Campaign Helps Native Youth Take Charge of Their Money

It’s called “Minor’s Trust,” “Big Money” or “18 Money,” and for a number of Native American youth, it represents a blessing and a curse.

A small number of tribes pay out dividends from tribal businesses, or per-capita payments, to their members. For tribal members who are age 17 or younger, these payments are usually held in a financial trust until the youth turns 18. At age 18 (although sometimes later) minors can apply for their minor’s trust payout and sometimes receive a very large payment. Thus, many young people are faced with the responsibility of managing their “Big Money” at a young age.   With funding from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, First Nations launched the My Green campaign in April 2013 to help Native youth learn to manage their money. The main feature of the campaign is the My Green website at www.mybigmoney.org. It features four spokespeople – Native youth ages 17-23 – who present their stories about how they managed their Big Money. They share their lessons learned in a series of videos, and they serve as guides throughout the different components of the website. The site contains several money tools that Native youth can use to learn how to better manage their payments, including a Big Money simulation game that mirrors real-life spending decisions one must make.  The website also features an advice column that covers a number of financial topics that are especially pertinent to Native youth receiving minor’s trust payments.

First Nations created the campaign and website in response to the demand to provide financial education to the growing number of Native youth who are receiving a large lump sum of money as part of their minor’s trust payout.   Studies have shown that most Native American youth have very low rates of financial literacy, and are more likely to be “unbanked.” The national Financial Literacy of Native American Youth report (2007) showed that nearly 87% of Native American high school seniors in their study received a “failing” score in financial literacy. Similarly, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) found that 28.9% of American Indian and Alaska Natives are “underbanked,” and 15.6% are “unbanked.” With this low level of financial knowledge and high “unbanked” rate, Native youth who receive a large Minor’s Trust payment (sometimes amounting to $50,000 or more) are especially vulnerable to making poor financial decisions.

“Receiving a large minor’s trust payment when one turns 18 can be an exciting but also very stressful time for Native youth,” said Shawn Spruce, a program consultant for First Nations.  “We are confident that the My Green website will offer these kids a number of valuable tools to explore how to invest in their future.”

First Nations will continue to promote the website at several conferences over the summer and fall, including hosting a My Green booth at The National Indian Education Association (NIEA) conference Oct. 29 – Nov. 3, 2013. We first launched the campaign at the Native American Financial Officers Association conference in April in Nashville, followed by the Gathering of Nations PowWow in Albuquerque.

To learn more about the My Green campaign, visit the website at www.mybigmoney.org, “like” the campaign on Facebook at MyGreenFNDI, or follow the effort on Twitter @mygreenfndi.

Talented Native Students Make Art of Financial Literacy

Westlee Poor Bear begins drawing his piece “Bulls vs. Bears.”

In an effort to build Native youth financial literacy, First Nations worked with five art students at Miyamura High School in Gallup, New Mexico, to produce creative, camera-ready posters addressing various financial education topics.

Miyamura art teacher Tine Hayes, who worked with First Nations to facilitate the project funded by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, selected five especially gifted art students to participate. The students were commissioned for their artwork and received a payment upon the completion of their finished piece.

First Nations financial education consultant Shawn Spruce visited the high school in December 2012 to lead the art students in three three-hour sessions.  He introduced various financial concepts and asked them to begin drawing a unique piece that illustrated “Risk/Reward,” “Capital Appreciation,” “Diversification” or the “Circle of Life.”  One student, Westlee Poor Bear, was inspired to create a piece of art that captured both the up and down stock markets, titled “Bears vs. Bulls.” Another student, Kyle James, drew a piece titled “Invest in Yourself” that connected financial skills with his passion for wrestling by illustrating how both require dedicated practice and discipline.

Teacher Tine was very supportive of the kids receiving compensation for their work.  According to Tine, it gave the youth experience learning how to cater their artwork to the needs of a client, and it demonstrated how art can be pursued as a career.

“This project gives kids an opportunity to see the vocational aspects of art,” he noted.Miyamura High School art students with teacher Tine Hayes (back center).”

After the students took a couple of months to put finishing touches on their artwork, Shawn followed up to present them with their compensation and to offer a complimentary two-hour financial education class.  The session topics mostly focused on instructing students on how they could make responsible saving and spending decisions with the payment they were receiving for their artwork.

“One student intends to use his payment to purchase art supplies so he can produce more artwork to sell,” Shawn said. “Inspiring young people with forward thinking ideas like this is the whole goal.”

The posters were used as part of First Nations’ national “My Green” campaign (see separate story) that helps youth who are receiving large minor’s trust or per-capita payments (“Big Money”) make wise financial decisions.

By Benjamin Marks, First Nations Research & Program Officer

Risk and Reward
by Deon Tom

Bulls vs Bears

by Westlee Poor Bear

Invest in Yourself
by Kyle James

Top: Circle of Life by
Bryce Belinte

Bottom:
Circle of Life by Jayth Benally