Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Sat, Dec. 05

Artists and creatives carve their path through Change Labs initiative

Kelsey Lee of Happy Accidents! Productions is one of the new cohort of the 2020 Change Labs Business Incubator. (Photo courtesy of Change Labs)

Kelsey Lee of Happy Accidents! Productions is one of the new cohort of the 2020 Change Labs Business Incubator. (Photo courtesy of Change Labs)

TUBA CITY, Ariz. — The 13 Native-led small businesses and non-profit ventures selected from a pool of nearly 50 applications for the competitive Change Labs 2020 Business Incubator Cohort share a passion for their work, a hunger to learn, and a drive to make things better for their families, their communities and their people.

Representing a broad swath of the Native economy spanning the Navajo, Hopi, and White Mountain Apache reservations, these artists, photographers, pizza chefs, HVAC service providers, fitness trainers, and health and beauty gurus will spend the next year growing their operations through intensive training and mentorship, technical support in accounting, management, and branding and marketing, and, upon graduation, become eligible for microloans of up to $10,000.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how dependent our communities are on outside forces and border towns to survive. We knew this before the pandemic because data shows just how much of our dollars are spent off the reservation, but now it’s even more acute,” says Jessica Stago, director of the Change Labs Business Incubator. “We are not just supporting these entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams and their mission, but we are working toward building a sustainable future on the reservation.”

Trish Rensink, senior business coach for the Change Labs Business Incubator said that all of the entrepreneurs come to Change Lab so they can develop business skills and acumen that will make their dreams come alive.

“All of these incredible entrepreneurs are passionate about making a difference,” Rensink said. “And in the process of building their dreams, they are also playing a critical role in the ongoing rebuilding effort on the Navajo Nation. We are excited to be a part of their journey for the next twelve months and see more inspired products and services come home to the reservation.”

Meet the 2020 changemakers

Erwin Tso, Photographer

Tso spent seven years developing his photography skills and will launch a photo-tour business near Page.

Crystal Dugi, Artist

Known for her colorful and playful prints depicting traditional Navajo woman in a modern world, Dugi will create and market her artwork and develop a curriculum to teach others the healing power of art.

Kelsey Lee, Co-founder, Happy Accidents! Media Production

Based in Cameron, AZ, Kelsey will bring top-quality media services to businesses across the Navajo reservation. She founded the business with her husband and brother to create shareable content and art for other media artists.

Uriah McCarthy, Founder, Aniidna

McCarthy will grow his branding and marketing business to serve and support the creative community and preserve and promote indigenous culture.

Social justice through entrepreneurship

Deborah Saliego, Saliego Consulting Services, LLC

Saliego worked for the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) for more than 20 years as an environmental engineer. Saliego is channeling her skills with a new environmental-engineering consulting business.

Marian Bitsui, IndigiCrew

Through IndigiCrew, Bitsui provide wellness programs for Native youth by engaging them in social media and web-marketing projects, teaching them skills, independence, and accountability.

Shane Burnette and Erik Riley, High Altitude Boxing Training Camp

White Mountain Apache entrepreneurs Burnette and Riley have been in the boxing “arena” for years. Now they bring that success to Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona to start high-altitude training camps through White Mountain Apex Combat Sports. They want to teach Native kids how to approach bullying without fighting and learn discipline.

Carmirae Holquin, Navajo Sweat Equity Project

Holquin will launch the non-profit Navajo Sweat Equity Project to help Native American families obtain their own homes and help those who want a safe space for family gatherings.

Goods and services

Stephanie Curtis, Little Ones

While working in the Phoenix metro area, clients traveled more than four hours for Stephanie to cut their child’s hair, as she mastered the skill of adjusting to any type of child. She’s moving back home to the Navajo reservation to establish Little Ones, a hair salon service for fidgety children.

Danny Chatter and Carol Baca, Duo Services

Chatter and Baca are bringing years of HVAC experience to the Navajo Nation and are working toward making homes across the reservation safer and healthier with a one-stop shop for inspection, prevention, and mediation.

Sahmie Lomahquahu, Nrgi-1 Consulting

Will bring her strategic and community-planning skills to the Hopi reservation and help businesses and organizations work towards their big visions.

Jennifer Himmel, Big Sky Soap More information is avilable at

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