ONABEN Helped 3 Communities Create/Expand 55 Businesses

ONABEN is a highly respected non-profit and Native American Business Network that serves as an economic development engine for Indian Country. The organization has over 20 years of experience working with more than 120 tribes by providing extensive technical assistance, networking, and capacity build support. In developing innovative products and services tailored to fit the needs of these communities. ONABEN has served thousands of Native American organizations and entrepreneurs.

ONABEN partnered with three communities, Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota, the Molokai island of Hawaii, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee in North Carolina, to implement a Sustainable Employment and Economic Development Grant from 2013 to 2016.

The three communities are all located in rural areas that consist mostly of Native American or Native Hawaiian populations which face severe economic challenges, such as persistent poverty and unemployment. Self-employment is one of the few options for generating household income under these circumstances. However, there are significant barriers to self-employment. The markets for businesses are scattered, disposable income is limited, and finding enough business locally to create a “critical mass” of customers is difficult in these rural areas. Perspective business owners also lack experience with the market economy outside their area and often clients have credit problems.

ONABEN wanted to address the unique needs of each community while building up their capacity. The goals of the project were to increase jobs, strengthen the small business presence, and build capacity. ONABEN worked towards these goals by visiting each community once per quarter when they would provide onsite training and development. The organization also provided custom technical assistance, program design consultation, train-the-trainer education, and entrepreneurial trainings to start-ups and existing businesses.

In three years, ONABEN and its partnering communities produced 36 events, provided services to 55 businesses, and contributed to the creation of 141 jobs in the three communities. The events included in-person trainings and webcasts focused on developing entrepreneur’s business knowledge and increasing the capacity of attending organizations. Of the 55 businesses served, 42 were created or expanded through the process. Overall, each community witnessed an increase of economic activity, as well as development and growth within the business community.

A few examples from each community include ONABEN’s work with the Sequoyah Fund in Cherokee, North Carolina. The organization assisted with program development and web training for artisans. The artists in the community now benefit from a website dedicated to marketing their “Authentically Cherokee” artistic works and a marketing plan that ensures the success and sustainability of the website.

On the Molokai island of Hawaii, ONABEN worked with the Kuhaʾo Business Center to provide event support and marketing, communications, and web development training. Together, they developed the Molokai Business Conference Website and the “Go Local, Molokai Business Directory.” This partnership allowed the entrepreneurial community to grow in experience, knowledge, and business expansion. One local business that received training now has a presence on three islands and enough business to use an offsite manufacturer. Another vendor that ONABEN worked with that began as a fitness clothing designer has been able to diversify and now owns two more healthy living related businesses.

ONABEN also provided the Turtle Mountain Community Development Financial Institution in North Dakota with organizational capacity building, including leadership development for the recently hired Executive Director. With renewed confidence and the development of marketing collateral, the CDFI is once again able to make loans to local entrepreneurs.

ONABEN plans to keep the three communities informed of and engaged in learning opportunities, such as online learning platforms which are free of charge to entrepreneurs and resource providers, so that they can continue building their capacity.

Key Results:

  • 36 training seminars
  • 55 businesses created/expanded
  • 127 full-time and 141 part-time jobs created
  • 10 Partnerships created
November 2, 2017
Last Reviewed: November 2, 2017