Native American Entrepreneurship Gets Boost

by Arizona State University

The American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University, in collaboration with ASU’s Entrepreneurship + Innovation, The Department co-working space, Maricopa County Small Business Development Center and The Visionary Business Magazine, launched the Inno-NATIONS Tribal Business Collision Community — an inter-tribal initiative championing tribal entrepreneurship and economic development across Arizona — this past January.

“This community we are building is really needed in Arizona and in the country. There are no other spaces like it,” says Traci Morris, Ph.D., AIPI director and Inno-NATIONS founder. “In fact, there are few tribal incubators in the country. We see the need, and the Phoenix Valley has a very large urban Indian population with a strong commitment to tribal business owners and is surrounded by tribes with tribal enterprises. Now is the time and this is the place.”

By spearheading innovative partnerships and leveraging resources from ASU, tribes and community organizations, game-changers at Inno-NATIONS hope the “collision community” will cause a ripple effect of change in tribal communities. The goal is to support up-and-coming Native American entrepreneurs and ignite enterprises to fuel sustainable tribal economies by rejuvenating and modernizing traditional trade networks.

“One of our biggest priorities at ASU is to help diverse entrepreneurs succeed through culturally relevant programming,” says Ji Mi Choi, ASU associate vice president for strategic partnerships and programs. “Inno-NATIONS will support Native entrepreneurs to foster solutions that meet the needs of their communities and create economic impact.”

The inaugural Inno-NATIONS cohort will be housed at startup co-working hot spot The Department in downtown Phoenix early this month, with the three-day pilot cohort starting in June.

“This is such an exciting and unique endeavor for Indian Country,” says Nathan Pryor, chair of the AIPI Advisory Board. “Native people have always been entrepreneurs; Inno-NATIONS will provide the means to grow more formalized tribal businesses through dynamic and contemporary means. We are overwhelmed from the positive support that Inno-NATIONS has received from ASU as we launch this new economic opportunity.”

Within a year after launch, plans are in place to expand and relocate the “collision community” to a culturally relevant space housing several anchor tribal businesses, a “maker” space, business incubator and co-working space.

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