by Natasha K. Hale, Program Manager, Native American Business Incubator Network
There’s no word in our language for "entrepreneur." In fact, the Economist has dubbed the Navajo Nation the last frontier for entrepreneurship. Basic start-up necessities like small business loans, office space, and high-speed internet connections are hard to come by and sometimes it feels like you need an MBA just to navigate the bureaucratic red tape.
But smart, creative people with ideas for new ventures, from Navajo language apps to film production companies? The Navajo Nation has those in droves.
Whether it’s launching an app or setting up a mutton stand, following your passion and starting a business can feel pretty lonely at the beginning, especially in a place as vast and remote as the Navajo reservation, where transportation and communication are challenging: only 18 percent of roads are paved and cell service is spotty or nonexistent. Fewer than 10 percent of homes on tribal lands have an internet connection.
Change Labs, the brainchild of born and raised Navajo tribal member Heather Fleming of Catapult Labs, brings together movers and shakers in the tech industry, from Silicon Valley to MIT, to network, brainstorm, share ideas, and help Native entrepreneurs acquire the tools they need to make their businesses take off.