Choctaw Means Business
The Choctaw Nation is experiencing what some are calling a “Choctaw Renaissance” in Southeast Oklahoma. More specifically, the Nation is becoming a significant economic force as more Choctaw become entrepreneurs by starting their own businesses.
For those who follow Choctaw history, this resurgence shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Choctaw have a strong history of doing business. As early as 1700, the tribe developed a strong economy based on farming and selling goods and livestock to the Europeans. Trade between the Choctaws and other Southeastern tribes had long been established. In years past, the primary business centered around agriculture and it is still a strong component of the Tribal economy today.
While the Tribe is known for gaming, there are new and established businesses in many industry sectors including retail, cultural arts, technology and food. However, a range of challenges remain for members that desire the rewards of business ownership including business education, mentoring, access to capital and many others.
Because entrepreneurship is critical to the future of the Nation, Chief Gregory E. Pyle has commissioned the Choctaw Business Development Center (CBDC) to provide assistance and support for Tribal members that want to start a new business or take their existing business to the next level.
“The CBDC is a catalyst for job creation in Southeast Oklahoma” states Bill Wimberley, Chief Business & Economic Development Officer for Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. “But it’s really much more than that. Creating jobs is a means to an end. We are focused on sustainability for the Choctaw People.”
The CBDC’s mission is to “…provide one-to-one business counseling, economic development assistance and development to both aspiring and existing Choctaw entrepreneurs. This support includes counseling, development and support services concerning the formation, management and operation of businesses, all in partnership with existing Choctaw Nation programs.”
Aspiring entrepreneurs can apply to the CBDC through the Center’s website. Each application is evaluated by the center’s staff to evaluate the applicant’s business readiness and ensure the best fit.
At this time, the Choctaw Business Development Center has two primary “tracks” for aspiring entrepreneurs: Incubation and Acceleration. Each track is designed to build critical business skills as members gain traction in their business.
Designed for the advanced hobbyist or person who has a business concept but isn’t sure how to take the idea and leverage it into revenue. Often these businesses have been family run enterprises for many years, but have never created a business plan, financial model or marketing plan. The Incubate track provides simple to follow workshops and one-on-one time with experienced business people who provide mentoring.
This track is for the business that has revenue, some level of planning and is looking to get to the “next level”. This “next level” might be revenue, profit, jobs created or any number of other metrics depending on the business. The idea is to strengthen what is working well and address any weaknesses to better prepare the business for growth and/or partnership to better compete in a larger market.
Each track builds on the previous track. For example, a business that is in its infancy would enter the Incubate track and after ninety days of mentoring and support, graduate to the Accelerate track to further build on the opportunity. The CBDC is designed to take a lot of the guess work out of the process.
For those not ready to enter the CBDC’s program tracks, the Center works closely with Jill Reyna, coordinator for The Native American Business Resource Center. The NABRC offers extensive training and workshops for Choctaw who desire to start their own business. According to Reyna, “The first thing I do is have a one on one counseling session where we discuss the type of business they are thinking of starting, the background they have and then the next steps they would take to start a business.”
A unique aspect to the Choctaw Business Development Center is that it also originates businesses, developing and deploying business concepts completely within the Center.
“We come across different opportunities that are isolated. On their own, they are not going to turn into businesses.” says Wimberley. “But from our purview, we can connect those opportunities into unique business concepts and literally create a business from the ground up.” For these “originated” businesses, the CBDC will hire from within the Tribal community to run and work in these businesses.
“We understand the challenges faced when it comes to starting businesses and finding employment, but also know the unique strengths Choctaw people can bring to the business world,” says Wimberley.
The Choctaw Business Development Center’s mission is to provide one-on-one business counseling, economic development assistance and technical support to Choctaw entrepreneurs.
The CBDC provides aspiring and existing Choctaw businesses with services focused on counseling, development and support services to support the formation, management and operation of Choctaw-owned businesses.
If you wish to start a business or take you existing business to the next level, the CBDC can help.
Qualified applicants receive one-on-one mentoring, entrepreneurial development, business planning support and much more. Learn more at www.choctawmeansbusiness.com.