Running Strong and Joshua Smith (Osage Nation), 2019 Dreamstarter, worked together to develop a new Running Strong 𐒻𐓥𐓣𐓥𐓘𐓷𐓣͘ (Ihkihkawi) Microenterprise Development program to support Native entrepreneurs in Oklahoma. 𐒻𐓥𐓣𐓥𐓘𐓷𐓣͘ (Ihkihkawi) means trade in the Osage language.

With the goal of empowering entrepreneurship within tribal communities, this program offers zero-interest micro-loans of up to $5,000, practical business training, mentorship, and networking opportunities. Successful applicants will take part in empowering courses taught by successful entrepreneurs, banking industry experts, and brillant marketers. Josh, an entrepreneur and owner of Ekowah Coffee, has an incredible passion for Native businesses and supporting Native entrepreneurs in his community. 

The 𐒻𐓥𐓣𐓥𐓘𐓷𐓣͘ (Ihkihkawi) Microenterprise Development program is a unique opportunity to empower individuals, contribute to tribal economies, and strengthen tribal communities. This program reaches micro-business entrepreneurs in critical places of development and supports both the entrepreneurs and the local community. 

Studies show that micro-businesses make a more significant contribution to reducing poverty in rural communities than larger businesses. Micro-businesses contribute to the local economy by generating income, and they uniquely develop a community’s sense of place and personality. The Center for Rural Affairs found that more than half of all rural small businesses give charitable, with more than 90% of those contributions going to local programs and causes.

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How it works:

The 𐒻𐓥𐓣𐓥𐓘𐓷𐓣͘ (Ihkihkawi) Microenterprise Development program is currently seeking Native American business-owners and entrepreneurs in Northeast Oklahoma and within the Pine Ridge Reservation or the surrounding area in South Dakota with an existing small business or well-developed business idea, as well as a commitment to benefiting their tribal community.

Training will consist of six in-person business development courses designed to prepare candidates to find success in their venture. The training will center around creating a useful business plan, finance management competence, and developing a viable marketing strategy. All levels of training will consistently feature a strong focus on the role of entrepreneurship in strengthening and uplifting the community. 

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