The ANA Messenger: The Economic Development Issue
Crossroads Business Exchange and Crow Creek Asset Building Okodakiciyapi (Collaborative)
A Native Asset Building Initiative grant
The Crossroads Business Exchange is a three year project, while the Crow Creek Asset Building Okodakiciyapi is a five year project. The projects are located on the Crow Creek Reservation, with the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, in Central South Dakota.
The Crossroads Business Exchange grew out of a need to support entrepreneurs in our community and a lack of retail space for our local artist. Additionally, youth entrepreneurship has always been important to us, so we decided to make sure to incorporate our youth in the project. Crow Creek Asset Building Okodakiciyapi (Collaborative) grew out of new and existing relationships in the Crow Creek community. The Crow Creek Housing Authority, Hunkpati Investments, the Boys and Girls Club of Three District, Diamond Willow Ministries, Crow Creek Tribal Schools, Lutheran Social Services Consumer Credit Counseling, and Great Western Bank all banded together to promote comprehensive financial literacy and asset building in our community.
The Crossroads Business Exchange idea and application were done with the help of a non-profit partner, the Harvest Initiative. The Crow Creek Housing Authority approached Hunkpati Investments to partner with the Crow Creek Asset Building Okodakiciyapi (Collaborative), due to our reputation as a Native CDFI in the Crow Creek Community. They asked for us to administrate on the project due to our successful administration of other ANA projects. Hunkpati Investments developed the grant proposal and incorporated the other project partners.
The ideas came together through actively listening to our community—we did surveys and market analysis to see what the community wanted us to focus on. The results on these not only helped us develop our grant proposal, but continue to impact our approach and project design.
Key project staff for the Crossroads Business Exchange is our Business Coach, Elaine Kennedy. She works with entrepreneurs and youth to help them develop their business plans. The Okodakiciyapi relies heavily on Tolly Estes, the Crow Creek Housing Authority Director and their awesome Finance Officer, Ronnette Walton. Our IDA Project Manager, Wendy Wells, did a lot of the program design from the ground up and oversees all daily operations. Krystal Langholz, Executive Director of Hunkpati Investments, is also key personnel on both grants. She does grant management and administration.
Main Project Goals and Objectives
The goal of Crossroad Business Exchange’s project is to increase the likelihood of success for startup small businesses on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation by providing potential small business owners with entrepreneurial education and the opportunity to test their business plans in real-world conditions, and by increasing entrepreneurial awareness among youth through a partnership with the Crow Creek High School. We will do this though having 18 potential small business owners participate in the Crossroads Business Exchange program; six of the small businesses tested in the Crossroads Business Exchange program will be fully operational, stand-alone businesses; and five students from Crow Creek High School will have tested their business plans in the Crossroads Business Exchange program.
Need for Project
Okodakiciyapi’s goal is to "fight generational poverty and increase self-determination for the Crow Creek tribal nation through the building of assets in the Crow Creek communities by assisting individuals in the development or growth of housing, business, and education. The building of assets will be achieved through the utilization of Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), credit improvement, and financial education for all generations residing within the Crow Creek Community." We will do this through utilizing IDAs to accelerate individuals' savings to reach their target goals and build upon their assets to generate a total of $628,500 of savings in our community; credit improvement for participants through a combination of education and small credit builder loans, improving credit scores in our community by a total of 1,100 points; and improving the quality, percentage of completion, and access to financial education by graduating 1,275 people from financial education courses of various kinds over the course of 5 years.
So, you know—easy stuff like that.
Both projects have been awesome for the community. To be brutally honest, we’ve struggled with the Crossroads Business Exchange—trying different models, requirements, etc. But we’ve kept at it, and we’ve helped create several jobs, even if a lot of them are part time, and increased the self-pride and self-sufficiency of the community.
The Okodakiciyapi has, in some ways, had richer impacts in that it has strengthened and grown the power of relationships in our community. This is enabling other programs to develop and a new sense of hope in what is possible when we leverage resources. We also just helped our first successful saver pay for his college tuition this semester through our matched savings program, so we are excited to see what the impact of those assets are on the community in the long-term.
Going forward, we plan on modifying the Crossroads Business Exchange project—keep the foundational components of what is working. The parts that are working are the entrepreneurship classes, the special shopping events, and youth entrepreneurship. Some of what is not working (the retail space); we plan to let go. However, we are okay with that—it was a learning opportunity for our organization.
Although the Okodakiyapi still has several years left, for both projects, we have worked to receive funding from other sources to ensure continuation of the project—using the ANA project as a chance to refine our program and document results for other funders.
Also, don’t neglect your administration. Filling out your objective work plan as you go along can help you stay accountable and on track. If your organization doesn’t have the time or capacity to do the administration well, build a relationship with an organization that does and rely on them to help you.
Lastly, ask your community what they think about your project before it starts and while you are doing it. It won’t succeed at all without their buy-in and participation.