Microenterprise Development Class #1 - Group Photo-min

An innovative group of disrupters in business

This past week, Michele Meza , CEO of Luksi Coaching & Consulting, posted on her Facebook page, “I had the honor of spending the day on the beautiful Osage Nation reservation with these amazing, inspiring, and talented entrepreneurs!”

She was referring to 2019 Running Strong for American Indian Youth® Dreamstarter Josh Smith (Osage Nation), who used his $10,000 Dreamstarter grant to found his company, Ekowah Coffee, and our first cohort of Dreamstarter Incubator grant recipients.

Today, Josh is helping other Native American entrepreneurs to expand their businesses and take them to the next level through Running Strong’s Dreamstarter Incubator initiative which is providing microenterprise development grants of up to $5,000 to four small business owners in Oklahoma.

The four Dreamstarter Incubator grant recipients are: Erick Wick, general manager of the Dirty Laundry Saloon in Pawhuska; Shannon Duty, CEO of The Summer House in Pawshawka; Whitney Virden, owner of Roots + Blooms in Bartletsville; and Jordan Garza, founder of Native Unlimited in Tulsa.

Last week, the group, described by Michele as “this innovative group of disrupters in business,” participated in Michele’s Digital Marketing + Business Essentials Masterclass hosted by Josh, with support from the Dreamstarter Incubator program, which she noted “is one of the many community-driven initiatives procured by Running Strong.”

“The Dreamstarter Incubator is designed to continue supporting the dreams of Native youth for the long-term, outside of Dreamstarter cash grants,” she noted. “Running Strong works collaboratively with past Dreamstarters to develop and operate NEW impactful Running Strong programs inspired by their dreams.

“Dreamstarters bring their vision, passion and commitment to improving the lives of tribal communities across the nation, and Running Strong provides the network, mentorship and financial, technical, and logistical support to launch and run these new programs – with Dreamstarters at the helm.”

Speaking of Josh, Michele commented, “This program inspired him to take the lead and cultivate change in his community, which is how this partnership came about!

“As I often say, it only takes one person to make a difference and have a positive impact in this world. Way to demonstrate leadership, Josh.”

Michele added, “the value and support you provide to others has an enormous impact on your relationships and how you nurture your network truly matters.

“What started out as a conversation about managing social media turned into something more. That’s what it’s all about and that’s how you build community.

“Running Strong for American Indian Youth® is cultivating the next generation of Native leaders. Together, Running Strong and Native youth are creating positive change in Native communities.”

And, as for Josh himself, “Michele did a great job and went into tremendous depth about not only the marketing process, but the process of running a business as a whole.

“We had high levels of engagement from the awardees and you could tell that the information really got their gears turning and helping them think through ways in which they can grow their business.

“It was phenomenal hearing those whose business is rather new go from ‘I am not sure what to do’ to ‘I have a tone of ideas and I feel I can actually do this.’”

In addition, Josh said he would be following up with each beneficiary and will report on how their individual time with Michele goes, “but I am confident that it will be extremely beneficial for each of them.”

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