Miranda Morales is part of a new generation of entrepreneurs on the Navajo Nation, entering the business world with a little hope and a lot of determination.
This last summer, Morales attended the National Foundation of Teaching Entrepreneurship’s (NFTE) summer program at Stanford University, learning the essentials of starting and maintaining a small business. The program hosts young entrepreneurs from all over the country, emphasizing assistance for students who are low-income, helping them get a boost toward self-sufficiency.
Students who attend the program engage in a variety of different activities, learning to write a business plan, participating in a trade show, and critiquing their own business performance.
NFTE provides participants with $60 in venture capital so that they can prepare a business for the trade show portion of the program, says Morales, and she decided to sell a product that was fairly cheap—power bracelets at $3 apiece—hoping to make it easy for people to buy them. The technique paid off, she says. She sold 45.
“There were three other people in jewelry sales, but their products were more expensive,” says Morales, so they did not perform quite as well. But Morales also set herself apart by giving people something a little extra; the story behind the beads she sold.
Now, with one success behind her, Morales is ready to do more. She plans on taking her business, Banana Beads, to the next level, incorporating her culture into her work. She has started using her mother’s and grandfather’s beads, making pouches and chokers. For now, the money she makes goes back to her family, until she starts getting a return on her investment, she says.
But here again, says Morales, her business is about more than just the beads she sells. It is also about the story behind the beads; it is about the importance of culture in everything you do. Morales, keeping with tradition, provides the explanation verbally to her customers, she says. Morales sells her work now at Greyhills High School, where she is a senior, and sales are primarily made word of mouth.
“I gave my friends two bracelets to wear, and they display them for me. When kids ask where they got them, my friends send them to me,” says Morales.
Next year, when Morales hopes to attend Northern Arizona University to major in Hotel and Restaurant Management, the Internet will play a larger role in her business. In fact, she says, NFTE helps its students find free business web sites to get them started.
In the meantime, Morales has decided to compete for NFTE’s Entrepreneur of the Year award. For that, she will have to complete a business plan, keep track of her monthly and yearly income, submit two teacher recommendations and two newspaper articles. Should she be the recipient of the award, she would receive another $1,500 in venture capital from NFTE and a trip for two to New York, money which would go a long way to helping her fledging business grow.
But even if Morales’ bid for the award is not successful, this determined and focused young woman will not be easily discouraged from making Banana Beads a success. Some day, she hopes to also represent other artists, buying their products wholesale and reselling them for a profit.
“My success,” she says, “depends on my effort.”