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Native American Entrepreneurial Empowerment Workshop Sets BBNC Shareholders Up for Small Business Success

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Native American Entrepreneurial Empowerment Workshop participants
Native American Entrepreneurial Empowerment Workshop participants

A group of shareholders hoping to start their own businesses are one step closer to bringing their dreams of entrepreneurship to fruition, thanks to a workshop recently offered by BBNC and the Bristol Bay Development Fund (BBDF). The Native American Entrepreneurial Empowerment Workshop was held April 16th and 17th at BBNC’s corporate office in Anchorage. It was one of 15 Native Entrepreneurial Empowerment workshops planned for 2019 across the country by the United States Small Business Administration’s Office of Native American Affairs.

BBDF is a subsidiary of BBNC, established in 2014 to be a catalyst for business growth in the Bristol Bay region. Cindy Mittlestadt, BBDF’s Development Fund Manager, was excited to offer the workshop to help fuel that growth and foster good economic health. She says that many of the calls she has received over the past two years have been from shareholders looking to get their start in small business. “There’s been a demand for access and re- sources that really address the early startup phase,” she said. “This work- shop’s goal was to offer that access, and with it motivation, support, and a business-ready feeling.”

The free workshop was promoted via Facebook, email, and direct outreach, and was open to all BBNC shareholders. The response was strong: initially planned for 15 participants, the workshop ended up with 25 in attendance, with back- grounds as broad as their business interests. Some participants had previous small business experience, while others were completely new to entrepreneurship. Others signed up representing interests in tribal enterprises. 21 of the 25 participants came from rural villages in Bristol Bay (Dillingham, Igiugig, Twin Hills, Chignik, Clark’s Point, Togiak, Manokotak, and Koliganek), offering them the chance to connect with the broader BBNC shareholder community around a shared interest.

The workshop curriculum was designed by ONABEN, a community development organization that has been developing similar work- shops for over 15 years. It covered steps needed to plan, fund, launch, manage, and grow a business, and offered participants the opportunity to discuss their business ideas with each other, instructors, and professionals in a collaborative setting. Additionally, Nancy Porzio, the District Director for Alaska’s Small Business Administration (SBA), attended and presented some of the SBA’s available tools. Native American Entrepreneurial Empowerment Workshops are provided to Native communities across the country through support from the SBA’s Office of Native American Affairs. Redwind Consulting is contracted by SBA to provide these workshops at no cost to entrepreneurs.

Mittlestadt sees the workshop as a success. “I hope it showed our participants that it’s good to be curious and take the time to learn and ask questions. We’re excited to see how their plans develop, and I hope others will reach out to BBDF as they navigate the small business process.”

BBNC President and CEO Jason Metrokin sees this workshop as an example of BBNC and BBDF’s commitment to shareholders economic vitality in the region. “BBNC cares about small businesses and wants to help them thrive. If they can be successful, then the owner and his or her family are going to be successful. And perhaps they can pass the business on to their kids or grandkids someday. Small businesses are really the heartbeat of a community, and it’s important for us to support that.”

BBDF is already planning more opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs, including launching a new program called Path to Prosperity in Bristol Bay; it’s a start-up boot camp and a business plan competition for which financial awards will be made to the winning business concepts.