Four Bands Community Fund Kick-starts Small Businesses

A man and woman review a document.Four Bands Community Fund is a Native American community development financial institution based in South Dakota. Founded in 2000, it has grown to be the leading organization on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in the areas of small business training and lending, entrepreneurship education and financial literacy. It encourages the economic development and quality of life for all communities and residents on the reservation.

From Sept. 2010 to Sept. 2012 Four Bands implemented a Social and Economic Development Strategies project designed to prepare local entrepreneurs to start or diversify 20 businesses. The basis for this project was a report Four Bands commissioned in 2008 called “Business Opportunities in the Cheyenne River Reservation Market.” This report examined the local business marketplace, consumer demand, possibilities for start-ups and expansion of existing businesses. This report informed the organization’s development of strategies to increase business growth on the Cheyenne River Reservation.

Four Bands recruited interested entrepreneurs and paired them with business mentors. This mentor-entrepreneur relationship allowed entrepreneurs to research, develop and write business plans with the assistance of experienced local business leaders and the Four Bands business development manager. Participants in the program were assisted in achieving concrete, specific and meaningful goals towards starting or expanding their business. Such milestones included applying for and receiving financing; depositing savings into an Individual Development Account to acquire owner’s equity; creating marketing budgets; and securing leases or purchasing sites for their businesses.

Many of the entrepreneurs did not have access to traditional means of business financing through banks and Four Bands provided participants with capital through the Four Bands Community Fund Revolving Loan Fund. This gave access to essential start-up or expansion capital to some businesses. Some went on to secure loans from local banks to expand. Four Bands also supplied 12 businesses with $2,000 in marketing materials and three businesses received $5,000 packages.

Through the work of Four Bands, 20 businesses were created or expanded during the project period. These businesses included:

  • Certified public accountant firm
  • General construction, roofing, and dry wall companies
  • Quilt-making business
  • Maid service
  • Life insurance broker

Many businesses were able to increase their size from one or two employees to six, eight, and more. These businesses were able to succeed because Four Bands did extensive planning and market research beforehand to determine the level of support and ability for certain businesses to flourish in the community. Since these businesses were in demand by Tribal and community members, they easily attracted customers. The owner of Diamond D Construction said he had to turn away clients because he was booked for months.

Seeing this growth in private ownership and economic development, more Tribal members are motivated to start their own businesses.  Four Bands will continue to provide business-related training services and strengthen its partnership with Tribal leadership to bring greater economic security to the Cheyenne River Reservation.