The economic development significance that tribally-owned businesses play in Native American communities is one reason the Small Business Administration launched its Emerging Leaders executive level training initiative across the U.S.
Since 2008 the initiative, in 27 cities and communities across the country, has trained more than 1,300 promising small business owners in underserved communities.
Among its most recent participants selected for this training were Wyandotte Nation tribal members Ron Brown and Dalana Rutledge. Brown lives in Grove, Okla., and Rutledge lives in Miami, Okla.
“First of all, to be accepted into the program was a privilege, and to make it through the six months, was an accomplishment,” said Brown, President of Wyandotte Precision Products, a machine shop located in Joplin, Mo. “In the long run it will help grow Wyandotte Precision’s business with a strategic plan.”
For Rutledge, whose background is as an accounting manager and now President of Wyandotte Services, a food service business, the program was a great learning experience.
“It helped me step outside my comfort zone. It’s not something I’m typically used to,” Rutledge said. “It helped my understanding of how a strategic business plan is put together from beginning to end, by looking at all the pieces and how they all work together. We had to write a growth plan from beginning to end, and it made me focus on what direction we are going.”
Rutledge said it also helped with her personal growth as she develops her current role.
“What I am hoping to accomplish with this program, is to further develop as a leader in our company. I’m ready to take on more of the leadership role,” she said.
Starting in April, 2013, Brown and Rutledge took part in sessions at Northeastern State University in Broken Arrow.
According to the SBA, the Emerging Leaders initiative has been a catalyst for expanding opportunities in both urban small businesses and Native American communities. Sixty-seven percent of surveyed participants reported an increase in revenue while 75 percent of those surveyed reported maintaining or creating new jobs in their communities.
The seven-month executive leader curriculum included approximately 100 hours of classroom time per participant and provided the opportunity for participants to work with experienced mentors, attend workshops, and develop connections.
“The SBA provided each company with an industry report that allowed us to compare our company and financials with the industry standards,” Brown said. “That kind of information is important when deciding where to concentrate your efforts to improve your financial position.”
Wyandotte Services and Wyandotte Precision Products are part of the Wyandotte Nation’s federally chartered corporation, Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma (WTOK), which drives economic development for the Tribe and its Tribal Citizens.