Office of Native American Affairs
Chris James, Assistant Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration
The mission of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Native American Affairs (ONAA) is to ensure that American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians seeking to create, develop, and expand small businesses have full access to the business development and expansion tools available through the agency’s entrepreneurial development, lending, and procurement programs.
ONAA supports several national small business initiatives and offers general and specialized resources for Native American entrepreneurs and business owners. For example, the office participated in the SBA’s Emerging Leaders (formerly e200) Initiative, produced an online course, and organized a series of entrepreneurship workshops.
The Emerging Leaders Initiative is the only nationwide federal training initiative that specifically focuses on executives of established businesses poised for growth and provides these executives the organizational framework, resource network, and motivation required to build sustainable businesses of size and scale. Since 2010, the SBA has trained 234 Native American business executives from 12 locations across Indian Country. The seven-month training includes about 100 hours of classroom time per participant and provides small business owners with opportunities to work with mentors, attend workshops, and develop connections with peers, city leaders, and financial institutions. The initiative has been a catalyst for expanding opportunities for both urban small business owners 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. Surveyed participants also reported having secured more than $26 million in new financing for their businesses, as well as increased confidence when applying for government contracts. As a result, nearly half of the initiative graduates reported securing federal, state, or local contracts, together worth more than $330 million.
In 2012, ONAA launched the “Native American Small Business Primer,” a self-paced online course that highlights basic business principles and enhances awareness of SBA programs and services. More than 4,000 individuals have registered for this online training. In late 2013, the SBA will introduce a second series of online training geared toward American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian entrepreneurs and their communities.
ONAA is also engaged in offering economic and business development resources through tribal colleges, building reservation-based entrepreneurial development, and providing a variety of online resources. Last year, for example, the office began the second phase of its “Native American Entrepreneurial Empowerment” workshop initiative. More than 160 participants received small business development training at eight events held in five states: Oklahoma, California, Texas, South Dakota, and Washington. Native American communities received nearly 150 hours of training and post-technical assistance, and these events created bridges that produced new partnerships and renewed older relationships. In 2013, ONAA is conducting an additional 23 workshops throughout the country, including in Alaska and Hawaii.
By using the SBA’s resources and network of entrepreneurial development partners, ONAA can help match Native business owners with expert advisers, counselors, and mentoring services. These resource partners can provide business owners with practical advice on matters related to management, financing, and marketing. ONAA can also identify local SBA lenders and refer customers to the nearest SBA District Office for assistance. For an immediate connection to SBA resources, potential and established business owners can visit www.sba.gov/direct.
Native American small business ownership is on the rise. There are more than 240,000 Native American-owned businesses, generating annual revenues of more than $34.3 billion, a 28 percent increase in 10 years. Native Americans make significant contributions in many areas, such as construction, energy, and tourism, and to our economic health through business ownership and job creation. ONAA stands ready to help.
To learn more about ONAA, please visit www.sba.gov/naa.
Community Developments Investments is produced by the OCC’s Community Affairs Department. Articles by non-OCC authors represent their own views and not necessarily the OCC’s.