The voice of experience is powerful. It is one thing to read about or imagine starting your own business for the first time, but hearing stories from those who have been there – maybe even several times – is invaluable to inspiring the aspiring entrepreneur.
We were lucky to have Bernard Cuny, current owner of Cuny Tree Farm in Allen, SD, come speak with our Green Business Development Training attendees back in July. Each of the trainees were there to solidify their business idea – solar energy for homes, guest lodge, tree farm, alternative agriculture, just to name a few. Learning to create a business plan and budgets are good basic skills to have, but inspiration and encouragement really help with the intense personal and emotional investment needed.
Bernard has worked the tree farm for over 10 years, and he says it’s important to always try your best even when the work gets hard. Having his name on his business has meant his personal reputation is on the line with each tree sold and each call made. “You can do 10,000 good things, but if you do one bad thing, people will forget the 10,000 things,” he explained. “But once you’ve made up your mind to do something, you just give it your best and go for it.”
Lonna and Wade Livermont also shared their entrepreneurship story. They already have their feet wet with business ownership. They raise beef cattle, and Lonna makes quilts. Running a tree farm fits into their idea of having income from different sources, which is a smart idea for those in remote rural areas. Farming and ranching are challenging in a climate that has been filled with hail, tornadoes and devastating floods and blizzards in the last couple of years. It is encouraging that hope springs eternal for the Livermonts, who are doubling down on a land-based business. “You just never give up,” says Lonna, “Never, ever.”
Fast forward to this month when Trees, Water & People began its Green Business in Indian Country Start-Up Award work with 2014 winner, Tyler Tawahongva of Cloud Nine Recycling. Tyler also faces many challenges in his efforts to not only do recycling on the front lines, but also educate his community about the need for recycling.
Tyler has been working with a local business development program in the greater Flagstaff area –the Native American Business Incubator Network (NABIN) – headed up by Natasha Johnson (Dine’). A project of The Grand Canyon Trust, they seek to develop local economies by giving technical support to Native entrepreneurs. And like TWP, their mission includes strengthening those tribal businesses as a way to build capital and jobs, which in turn give job seekers alternatives to the large energy industries that often dominate the economic landscape (literally and figuratively) in Native communities.
The current cohort of entrepreneurs in NABIN include a bed and breakfast, a Navajo language program, graphic design, videography and recycling. Each of these businesses will be able to create jobs in their local areas, and in some cases, across Indian Country. TWP is happy to collaborate with NABIN to extend Tyler’s network and customer reach with a new website and marketing materials. We will be helping him launch those business essentials as “Team Tyler”.
Tyler is also already extending his network within the recycling industry to include a larger diversity of materials and clients. His work benefits many people in the Tuba City area in small ways through buying/selling cans, and larger ways through diverting many tons of cardboard and paper from the landfills. Being a smaller business, he can also be more responsive to calls from people who have materials they need picked up for recycling. Tyler speaks from the voice of experience – recycling, care for the environment, leadership in his community. By this time next year, he will also have his stories to share with others who want to start a business from scratch as a mentor in TWP’s Green Business Development Program.
Support Tyler and Cloud Nine Recycling! Through generous donors – TWP Board Member Jeff Hargis and a family foundation – all contributions to this campaign will be matched dollar for dollar!