Are you a Native American with entrepreneurial aspirations? There are many business resources available to you as a Native American entrepreneur, from loan programs to financial grants to free education. Let’s take a look at the resources available!
SBA Business Development Programs
If you’re a business owner who qualifies as a minority, the SBA has special programs that can help you get access to business counseling, training, guidance, and contracts. You can participate in these programs if your company qualifies as a minority-owned business.
Under the SBA guidelines, a minority-owned business is one in which the minority owner holds 51% or more of the company — either in stock, assets, or equity. Minorities include African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, and Subcontinent Asian Americans. Each of these minority groups are eligible for the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program that offers counseling, training, guidance, and access to contracting opportunities.
Both state governments and tribal administrations offer grant funding for Native American-owned businesses. Grants are free money – you don’t have to pay it back! One example is the Montana Indian Equity Fund; another is the Native American VAF in New Mexico. Contact your tribal administration to ask about available grant and funding programs. You can also check your state’s website to learn about opportunities offered by the state government.
The SBA’s Office of Native American affairs also provides grant funding through its 7(j) Management and Technical Assistance Program. Depending on your area, these grants may be as large as $100,000. Along with the grant, this program involves intensive guidance for running your business in areas such as financial management, operations management, business development, contract management, and more.
Grants usually set specific parameters for their applicants, so you’ll need to detail your business type and goals with a business plan in order to apply.
Getting off the ground with a new business can be challenging. It takes guts and determination, but as an entrepreneur you already have those things. What you may not have is capital. Aside from SBA programs and grant funding, you may be able to get the money you need to start your business through a microlender. Microlenders provide access to high-quality, affordable financial services so you can realize your business dreams. If you’re a Native American or Alaska Native business owner in need of funding, Accion offers loans for start-up and ongoing costs - to cover equipment purchases, inventory, leases, supplies, staff, marketing expenses, and more.
Mircolenders offer unique funding options that may not be available to you from traditional lenders, with an average loan amount of $10,000. Requirements are flexible and often make it possible to lend to those who may not qualify for a traditional bank loan, either due to lack of credit history or poor credit.
Specialty Organizations And Non-Profits
The above options are geared toward funding, but there are several larger organizations specifically dedicated to helping Native American small business owners with starting and growing their businesses through education and guidance as well. These include:
The Office of Native American Affairs
The SBA’s Office of Native American Affairs is dedicated to promoting and supporting Native American entrepreneurs. Their Washington DC-based office engages in outreach activities including “tribal consultations, development and distribution of promotional materials, attendance and participation in national economic development conferences.” Their entrepreneurial development program seeks to provide tools and education on lending and other matters to give you the tools you need to run a successful business.
As mentioned above, the Office of Native American Affairs also offers business grants in some areas.
National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development
The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization committed to helping Native Americans all over the country realize their entrepreneurial dreams. NCAIED provides training, advocacy, business development, and other resources for Native American entrepreneurs.
First Nations Development Institute
The First Nations Development Institute runs a variety of programs aimed at improving the lives of Native Americans. Among others things, these programs include financial and investor education programs ranging from the basics of financial management – opening and maintaining a bank account and using credit wisely – to more complex business education, such as helping individuals understand financial markets. The First Nations Development Institute also offers programs designed to support new Native American businesses and help them navigate the financial and operational necessities of entrepreneurship.
The Institute also offers loans and grants to help support small businesses run by Native Americans.
Free Online Education
When you’re starting a business, you probably have a lot of questions. You may not feel like you’re ready to apply to a formal counseling or lending program. If that’s the case, there are plenty of resources online where you can learn more about what it takes to start and run your business. SBA Learning Center: Native American Business Primer is an free online course designed to assist Native peoples who’re thinking about starting a business, or who are in the early stages of starting a business. This self-paced course has three primary objectives:
- To help determine your business readiness
- Provide an overview of small business principles
- Introduction to SBA resources
In addition, Accion has a variety of resources for entrepreneurs with questions about everything from permitting to hiring to tax planning. As always with Internet research, seek out information from reliable sources like government agencies and non-profit entities.
If you’re a Native American entrepreneur, you’re not alone in starting your business! The federal and state government, non-profits, and private sector have programs available to help you get your business off the ground and growing.
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