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Running Strong program supports small Native-owned businesses in Oklahoma

The program offers zero-interest micro-loans of up to $5,000, practical business training, mentorship, and networking opportunities

Josh Smith, Osage owner of 𐓀𐒰͘𐒼𐒰𐓆𐒰 𐒻𐒼𐓂𐓏𐒰 (Ekowah Coffee), is paying his experience with Running Strong forward.

Through a partnership, Smith and Running Strong, an organization founded by Olympic champion Billy Mills (Oglala Lakota), developed the Running Strong 𐒻𐓥𐓣𐓥𐓘𐓷𐓣͘ (Ihkihkawi) Microenterprise Development program to support Native entrepreneurs in Oklahoma. 𐒻𐓥𐓣𐓥𐓘𐓷𐓣͘ means trade in Osage.

With the goal of empowering entrepreneurship within tribal communities, the program offers zero-interest micro-loans of up to $5,000, practical business training, mentorship, and networking opportunities. Successful applicants will take part in empowering courses taught by successful entrepreneurs, banking industry experts, and marketers.

In 2019, Smith was a recipient of the organization’s Dreamstarter Incubator grant. Through that program he gained valuable experience in beginning his business as well as a financial boost. It made sense to him, and as a small business development enthusiast, to teach Native-owned small businesses how to be successful.

“The reason for the loans and the program is, as people go forward with their businesses, they will help others with the information they learn with us and pay it forward,” Smith said. “As people succeed other people will be able to help others succeed.”

How It Works

Native American business owners and entrepreneurs in Oklahoma with an existing micro-business or a well-developed business idea and a commitment to benefiting their tribal community may apply.

Training will consist of six remote and in-person business development courses designed to prepare candidates to find success in their venture. The training will center around creating a useful business plan, finance management competence, and developing a viable marketing strategy. All levels of training will consistently feature a strong focus on the role of entrepreneurship in strengthening and uplifting the community, according to a news release. 

Smith said the program is for everyone.

“Even if you have no idea on how to start a business, that’s fine. Just do your best effort,” Smith said. “We’re accepting a wide range of candidates. From those with established businesses to someone trying to expand their household income.

“We’re focusing on business plans and the story of where the need is. Trying to make sure the funding is going to the right place.”

Josh Smith, Osage-owner of Ekowah Coffee (𐓀𐒰͘𐒼𐒰𐓆𐒰 𐒻𐒼𐓂𐓏𐒰), received help in developing his business from the Running Strong Dreamstarter Incubator programs. Osage News Screenshot/ekowahcoffee.com

Studies show that micro-businesses make a more significant contribution to reducing poverty in rural communities than larger businesses, according to the release. Micro-businesses contribute to the local economy by generating income, and they uniquely develop a community’s sense of place and personality. The Center for Rural Affairs found that more than half of all rural small businesses give charitable contributions, with more than 90% of those contributions going to local programs and causes.

Deadline to apply for this round of grants is Sept. 30. To apply for the Running Strong 𐒻𐓥𐓣𐓥𐓘𐓷𐓣͘ Microenterprise Development program loan, visit https://indianyouth.org/microenterprise-deveopment/

For more information about the program, contact Josh Smith at (918) 704-2266 or email joshua@ekowahcoffee.com


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Shannon Shaw Dutyhttps://osagenews.org
Shannon Shaw Duty is the editor of the Osage News. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor's degree in Journalism and a master's degree in Legal Studies, Indigenous Peoples Law from the OU College of Law. She served on the Board of Directors for the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) from 2013-2016 and served as a board member and Chairwoman for the Pawhuska Johnson O’Malley Parent Committee from 2017-2020. She is a Chips Quinn Scholar, a former instructor for the Freedom Forum’s Native American Journalism Career Conference and the Freedom Forum’s American Indian Journalism Institute. She is a former reporter for The Santa Fe New Mexican. She is a 2012 recipient of the Native American 40 Under 40 from the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED). In 2014 she helped lead the Osage News to receive the Elias Boudinot Free Press Award, NAJA’s highest honor. An Osage tribal member, she and her family are from the Grayhorse District. She currently resides in Pawhuska, Okla., with her husband and six children.

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