TUBA CITY, Ariz. - Those hoping to start a new business on the Navajo and Hopi Reservations learned about the obstacles they might encounter along the way and how to best solve those issues at a day-long workshop June 6 that the HomeTown Competitiveness Project sponsored.
Leona Canyon of Tuba City and Scott Neuman of Coconino County Community Services organized the summit that took place at Greyhills Academy High School.
Neuman and Benjamin Davis, vice president of the To'Nanees'Dizi Chapter, welcomed those in attendance. Tony Skrelunas, Native American program director for the Grand Canyon Trust gave the keynote address.
Skrelunas gave the crowd of current and potential business owners at the summit examples of off-reservation and on reservation successes and failures of businesses tribal members own.
Skrelunas' presentation was titled "Making investments that will pay dividends in 10,000 years. Where do we best put our money based on past performance? How do we ensure that our communities keep performing to ensure we get a final payout?"
The Navajo Nation Tax Commission's Waukera Taylor traveled from Window Rock to discuss the tax application and accounting that is required for new and existing businesses located on the Navajo Reservation. Taylor also mentioned how the taxes the agency collects through its Window Rock offices are applied "back to the communities" where the businesses are located and that the local chapters are the beneficiaries of that tax money. Taylor said the office is short staffed making it difficult for its staff to get to every chapter or community to help personally. She suggested that potential and existing business owners either email or fax information to her offices and ask specific questions, which she said staff was more than happy to answer.
One local Tuba City business owner, Deborah Martinez, who owns Carvesa Car Wash, gave a personal account of how long and how difficult it was to establish a new business on the Western Navajo Reservation. She spoke of an eight-year-long journey which started with her own personal business plan, research on state and Navajo area sales statistics, taking business classes at Coconino Community College in Flagstaff, finding information on bonds and loans and working with the Native American Bank, which helped to secure a business loan for her car wash.
Martinez said that her journey to establish her family-owned business was a "nightmare" at times because she had difficulty working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, tribal utility services and even the tribal archeaology departments to get building clearance. She mentioned how important it was for the new business owner to document" each step and keep clean, current records of each process. She said she had to refer to these documents more than once to establish her business.
"It can be done, but you must be relentless," Martinez said. "You must follow up and check on the progress and status of your business plan each and every day. Don't give up, be persistent."
Scott Neuman echoed Martinez's advice.
"All entrepreneurs are different than regular people, they are problem solvers," he said. "They see things differently than most people. They might hit a wall, but they will figure out how to go around or over those obstacles to a successful business."
Martinez had one final thought for potential business owners.
"You must solve one problem at a time when you go after your business dream, cross it off your list, then go to the next problem," she said. "You must be methodical."
Another local business owner, Keith Cody of Tuba City Navajo Westerners True Value Hardware, discussed how to manage a long-time, locally owned single source business. Cody said that even though someone's business might "be the only game in town" like his hardware store, owners must work hard every single day regardless and remember who their target audience is.
During a wrap up session, Neuman and Canyon discussed plans to put on another summit in the future to help more tribal business owners learn the best practices to solve business problems. A future summit might also focus on community members working together to help one another with technical and regulatory obstacles to establishe more businesses on the Hopi and Navajo reservations.
More information is available from Scott Neuman at (928) 679-7463.
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