No matter your educational background, financial situation or race, starting a business can be very daunting. The obstacles, however, for indigenous Americans looking to start a Native American business can be even more frustrating because they often face the additional challenges of trying to overcome historic discrimination and disadvantages.
Like any other segment of society, Native Tribes need strong economic leaders. Native business owners do not only help ensure their tribes’ financial prosperity and growth; they also function as role models who inspire future Native American business leaders. After all, the long-term development of tribal businesses depends on getting the younger generation interested in business and entrepreneurship.
A Special Set of Struggles
When starting a business, Native Americans face a unique set of challenges. In 2011, a Native American Business Leaders Roundtable session at the White House found that tribal businesses ran up against such struggles as “. . . access to capital, job skills and training shortfalls, and limited broadband deployment and adoption in tribal communities,” to name just a few. Young Native Americans hoping to play prominent roles in tribal leadership will need not only a profound understanding of these issues but also a firm grasp of how best to cope with each challenge.
Behind the scenes, many groups and agencies promote native business interests and secure favorable initiatives and polices that will help support companies run by indigenous people. There are also financial institutions that offer special loan programs and grants as well as funding to start a Native American business. Of course, none of these programs are of any use if aspiring entrepreneurs do not know how to reach out and use them. A future business leader must know how to take full advantage of these helpful resources.
An Educational Edge
Whether you are already a community leader hoping to encourage others to excel or a young native entrepreneur, a sound education can be a key component in a successful career. It is important to look for training that not only focuses on being a leader but also what it takes to be a tribal leader and run a successful Native American business.
MBA programs are often one of the best tools for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to gain business leadership skills. Realizing the growing need for strong tribal leaders, some MBA programs have begun offering specialized courses in Native American business. Southeastern Oklahoma State University, for example, offers MBA in Native American Leadership courses that involve in-depth examinations of issues that affect tribal communities, as well as an overview of laws and policies that impact native groups and, by extension, Native American businesses.
Understanding the issues and obstacles facing young Native Americans as they navigate the corporate world can help current and future business and tribal leaders develop ways to inspire the Native American business leaders of tomorrow.
Learn more about the SOSU online MBA in Native American Leadership program.