September 03, 2009

Native women are entrepreneurs

Native women entrepreneurs:  Good business for Indian country

By Valerie TalimanMost people are surprised to learn there are more than 90,000 privately held companies owned by Native American women. These businesses generate more than $12 billion in annual sales and employ some 130,000 people, according to a 2004 survey by the Center for Women’s Business Research. That’s no small thing in Indian country.

On a national basis, more than one out of 11 Native women own a business. We also have the highest rate of entrepreneurship among major ethnic groups (9.2 percent compared to Caucasian-6, Hispanic-4.2, and African American-2.8 percent.) Business ownership increased by nearly 70 percent between 1997 and 2004, and new data due out in 2010 is expected to show further increases.

Raised among strong Navajo women who historically made decisions about land, livestock and family finances, I’m not surprised by the numbers. Many of us grew up on reservations where half the population couldn’t find work. For decades, Navajo Nation unemployment rates have hovered near 50 percent, and have exceeded 70 percent on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Finding a job is simply impossible at times.

Under these conditions, many Indian women are compelled to mesh innovative ideas, hard work and heartfelt concern for their families and communities to create businesses that bring money and jobs to tribal economies.
Comment:  Some people still think it's okay to call Native women "squaws." I wonder how many of these women would appreciate that.

The Tanka Bar is one entrepreneurial project by a Native woman that I've reported on. There are many others.

For more on the subject, see MBA for Indian Students, Obstacles to Tribal Businesses, and Navajos Aid Entrepreneurs.

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