Economic Self-Sufficiency - Empowering Native Entrepreneurs

By: - Oct 01, 2012
Source: The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation
From offices in Washington and Oregon, a nonprofit called Craft3 is helping individuals and families around the Northwest build their financial security and become economically self-sufficient.

Since 1995, Craft3 has offered a range of loans to help people in rural and urban communities start or develop their business. Noting the lack of resources available to Native entrepreneurs in particular, Craft3, in partnership with ONABEN, a Native American Business Enterprise Network, began directing special attention to Native communities in 2007.

"We saw Native communities were in particular need of the types of services we could provide," said Mike Dickerson, Executive Vice President. "Native entrepreneurs often don't have access to traditional loans or the resources to start a thriving, sustainable business. We wanted to change that."

Craft3 formed its Indian Country Initiative to make loans to Native entrepreneurs and help Tribal development organizations find loan capital and other capacity-building resources. The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has given $240,000 to support loans and technical assistance for Native entrepreneurs, helping to create dozens of living-wage jobs for Native people.

"Our goal is to build capacity and resilience in Native communities," said Walt Postlewait, Craft3's chief lending officer. "We are connecting them to resources and giving them tools to launch and grow businesses that are successful and become critical forces in their communities."

The impact of Craft3 is apparent in the success stories of the entrepreneurs it helps. Monica Simeon and Marina TurningRobe, for example, are Spokane Tribe owners of Sister Sky, a successful natural bath and body business. Wanting to expand production and bring their products to new markets, they went to their bank for more capital, but they were turned down.

Sister Sky then turned to Craft3. In partnership with the Affiliated Tribes of NW Indians revolving loan fund, Craft3 agreed to give the sisters a business loan to refinance their debt and provide working capital, which helped the business contract with a national hotel products distributor.

"If we hadn't invested in Monica and Marina, or others just like them, they wouldn't have been able to grow their business," said Jim Stanley, Craft3 Senior Vice President. "It's so rewarding when we know we've helped people get on the road to self-sufficiency. We are confident it will have a profound ripple effect."

During the first half of 2012, Craft3 has invested more than $1 million in nine Native entrepreneurs.