Notes from the Field: Native American Entrepreneurs Aspire to a Greener Future

native american business development training

by Lacey Gaechter, National Director

Today was the first day of our Native American Green Business Development Training – something that Trees, Water & People and I have been working toward for the last year. While the training is the continuation of a process we started in 2008 – giving Native American students the technical skills they need to enter the green job market – it is only the first step in our new Green Business Development Program. The next will be awarding one “Start-Up Assistance Scholarship” to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) student with the best application, which means we think he or she will have the best chance of succeeding in his or her environmental social enterprise. The fact that this training is only the start of us helping more Native Americans create livelihoods that benefit Mother Earth makes this week extremely special for me.

Yesterday we dove right into the training, going over the basics of a business plan, a mission statement, products and services, and the purpose of market research. It was so inspiring to hear of the students’ different aspirations for renewable energy, green building, and sustainable timber harvest businesses. Every single one of them focuses on the importance helping their people – creating jobs and improving lives through their businesses.

Henry Red Cloud
Henry Red Cloud shows students the solar PV system at RCREC.

We ended the day with a special guest lecture from one Mr. Henry Red Cloud, proprietor of Lakota Solar Enterprises. Henry talked to the students about what being a sole proprietor means to him and gave everyone an in-depth tour of the Red Cloud Renewable Energy, where there is plenty of fodder for the imagination, from solar panels to straw-bale houses and organic agriculture. After the tour, our long-time friend and frequent student Leo White Bear, had decided that he was going to build his own Compressed Earth Block machine, water his lawn with a passive-solar water pump, and sell solar water distillers as part of his business, Off the Grid. This is, of course in addition, to the 10 or so other products that Leo was already planning to offer.

One of my favorite moments of the day came when I asked Henry what the hardest part of being a business owner is, and he responded “bookkeeping!”  His favorite part about running Lakota Solar Enterprises: “Everything else!” I think he speaks for most of us!

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Trees, Water & People is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to developing sustainable community-based conservation solutions.

3 thoughts on “Notes from the Field: Native American Entrepreneurs Aspire to a Greener Future”

  1. Dear Lacey, thank you so much for sharing on the very FIRST day of the Native American Green Business Development Training. How exciting, encouraging and inspiring it is to follow the progress of TW&P and Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center’s hands-on training course! Perhaps courses on bookkeeping could be embraced as an integral yet separate
    part of entrepreneurial-ship…perhaps creating part time jobs for either gender and giving a leg up to the one-person-owner businesses. Many entrepreneurs may find it daunting to do most paper work and have no up front moneys to hire a part time bookkeeper. A person may want to learn to do bookkeeping but not go and build Solar Panels. Even here a community spirit effort recognizes a variety of skills and talents… How can someone be expected to be good in EVERYTHING. What if a Green Business Hopeful is
    not comfortable in reading or writing, perhaps dyslectic, or ADD, or gets panic attacks just thinking of paperwork? What if s/he is basically verbal,
    eloquent in brainstorming their ideas but not in writing…How can that student compete and be awarded a “Start-Up Assistance Scholarship” to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) with the best application if they are basically verbal? Perhaps thinking of PAIRING students with “paperwork comfortable or paperwork interested” Green Effort students with mostly hand-on students?? I mean this with the greatest of respect as I have worked with
    dyslectic and ADD idea-people most of my life whose progress was severely arrested because of “the paperwork”…
    Brightest blessings,

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