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Empowering Dreams: Introducing the Dreamstarter Incubator Program by Running Strong

In August 2022, Running Strong for American Indian Youth® announced a new, exciting expansion of our Dreamstarter program –Dreamstarter Incubator, designed to continue supporting the dreams of Native communities for the long term, after their original Dreamstarter projects have concluded. In this new program, Dreamstarters from previous years partner with Running Strong to create all new programs of their own and are able to distribute funds to their own constituents.

Our first Dreamstarter Incubator is Dreamstarter Entrepreneur Josh Smith from the class of 2019. Josh Smith is passionate about entrepreneurship and supporting small businesses, especially those that are Native owned and operated. Josh created Micro-enterprise Development as a way to offer loans to individuals and businesses that may otherwise be looked over by larger banking institutions. Now, Josh Smith is on staff at Running Strong leading his program, offering Native owned small businesses micro-loans of $5,000 to establish or expand their businesses. This program allows motivated individuals to directly support their communities by providing jobs, economic stimulation, and providing goods and services that may be lacking or unavailable in those areas.

Just one year after its launch, Josh is able to expand his program doubling the number of businesses that he is able to support and now offering his program in both South Dakota and Oklahoma. This year, a total of 10 amazing businesses are receiving $5,000 micro-loans.

Among the 2023 recipients, is Dana Bean (Osage) of Bartlesville, OK. Dana Bear is the owner of Tallchief Designs LLC. She strives to use her herbal knowledge, full-spectrum doula and childbirth educator training alongside her degree in Native American studies to promote advocacy for women of color in her community, and provide full service doula consulting. Dana’s business, Tallchief Designs LLC, has allowed her to merge her support of reproductive justice and love of nature with her culture and art. She plans to use the loan funds to further market her doula business, with an emphasis on providing natural solutions and culturally significant services. Dana’s doula service is the only one of its kind in the area, filling an important niche in her community.

For the second year in a row, Whitney Virden (Comanche) of Pawhuska, OK is receiving the Micro-Enterprise development loan to support her flower business, Roots and Blooms. Whitney is passionate about cultivating and sharing the beauty of nature through daily designs & large-scale installations and draws inspiration from the rich traditions and vibrant colors of indigenous cultures. By teaching others about the beauty and symbolism of flowers, Whitney hopes to inspire a greater appreciation for nature and a renewed sense of connection to our roots. She will use the loan funds to market herself more fully as a native florist nationwide. Running Strong is looking forward to continuing our funding relationship with Roots and Blooms, and can’t wait to see what Whitney will do next!

Visit our Micro-Enterprise Development page for a complete list of recipients and to learn more about each of these amazing businesses.

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