By Helena PowerHouse, Davey Madison
November is Native American Heritage Month. Traditionally this month is a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. But this is the perfect month to look forward and educate ourselves on some of the BA indigenous women entrepreneurs we can support.
According to the 2017 State of Women Owned Businesses Report, “Native American/Alaska Natives owned 1.4% of all women-owned businesses (an estimated 161,500), employing 61,300 workers and generating $11 billion in revenues.” Supporting women business owners is important. Supporting Native women business owners is doubly important because many of these entrepreneurs are also the primary breadwinners for their families.
The following indigenous entrepreneurs are not only creating and growing amazing businesses, they are also giving back to other native entrepreneurs and native communities.
Bethany Yellowtail founded B.Yellowtail in 2015 in Los Angeles. Originally from the Crow (Apsaalooke) & Northern Cheyenne (Tsetsehestahese & So’taeo’o) Nations in southeastern Montana, she started her fashion career at the BCBG Max Azria Group, moving on to become a lead pattern maker for several private label companies before launching her own brand.
B.Yellowtail’s clothing and textiles are designed by Indigenous peoples. The Collective is a B.YELLOWTAIL platform which features handmade goods created by Native American & First Nations artisans.
Etkie creates and sells handmade beaded jewelry from artisans on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico. Sydney Alfonso founded Etkie in 2013 after returning from Turkey where she assisted artisans in creating a platform for their handmade jewelry. The intent was to elevate their profit from meager sales to a reliable living wage. Seeing an opportunity, she created an ethical company that could provide Native American beaders with a platform to create contemporary designs using the artistic traditions passed down from generations.
ETKIE is sold in over 90+ retailers in seven countries and have created custom collections for some of the world’s best museums. The team of artists earn living wages, impacting the choices they can make for themselves and their families. The artists live on the Navajo Nation where the roads to work are long and the jobs are nonexistent. Many of them elect to work from home on the land and in the community where their roots are deeply planted.
Beauty: Sister Sky
Sister Sky is a creates natural soaps, lotions, and shampoos using native ingredients and wisdom. Embracing the herbal wisdom of their heritage, the sisters enjoyed a weekend hobby of making natural soaps and lotions in their kitchens. Often, they would take those hand made products to local craft shows to sell.
Sister Sky is owned by real life sisters, Monica Simeon and Marina TurningRobe, both enrolled citizens of the Spokane Tribe. In business since 1999, the sisters have built a family owned company that provides quality, natural body and hair care products inspired by Native American herbal wisdom. Sister Sky strives to make a positive impact through job creation and charitable giving. The company donates a portion of the Sweetgrass collection sales to Native American non-profits that promote culture, education, health and wellness.
If you want to find more Native American Entrepreneurs check out Beyond Buckskin and Native American Made for a list of verified Native owned businesses. With the holiday and gift giving season quickly approaching us, please consider buying from an Native woman and feel good knowing your purchase is going to support so much more.
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