A Visit to Cloud Nine

by Jeff Hargis, Trees, Water & People Board Member

Cloud Nine Recycling

A road trip to Phoenix to pick up my son provided a great opportunity for me to stop in Tuba City, AZ and visit Tyler Tawahongva, a Hopi member of the Coyote Clan, and the winner of Trees, Water & People’s 2014 Green Business in Indian Country Start-Up Award.

It was a bright and mild December day on the Navajo Reservation, and I was fortunate to catch Tyler on a day when he was loading a rental truck with tons (literally!) of recyclable materials for his regular trip to buyers in Phoenix.  So I was able to get a close-up look at his Cloud Nine recycling operation.

The operation requires a lot of work:  card board to bundle, aluminum cans and plastic bottles to sort and bag, and all kinds of electronics and appliances to be mined for steel, aluminum, and especially copper wire, which can fetch over two dollars per pound.  Tyler is looking to hire additional help which would allow him to process more material.

There are also many variables that can influence the profitability of the recycling business.  As Tyler showed me around, he was continuously bringing up ideas and asking questions regarding improvements to his operation.  Purchasing a baler would allow Tyler to process more cardboard and transport more per load to Phoenix.  The purchase of a utility trailer would eliminate the cost of renting a truck for transporting the material, not to mention the 150 mile round trip from Tuba City to the truck rental operation in Flagstaff.  All of these ideas provide opportunity for a little more profit for Cloud Nine, and a lot less waste going to the local landfill.

Tyler was able to finish loading the 16’ yellow rental truck ahead of sunset for the trip to Phoenix the following morning.  I lent a hand with the loading as we talked about Cloud Nine Recycling. I learned a lot about the ins and outs of the business.  I was impressed by the energy Tyler puts into the effort, and the ideas he has for the future.  With the TWP Green Business Start-up Award, these dreams for improving and growing the business have become real possibilities for Tyler.

I encourage you to support Tyler through his GoFundMe campaign so he can continue the great work he is doing within his community!

Advice on Starting a Green Business: “Give it your best and go for it!”


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!


Trees, Water & People Announces Winner of $40,000 “Green Business in Indian Country Start-Up Award”

Tyler Tawahongva
Tyler Tawahongva accepts the Green Business in Indian Country Start-Up Award.

Trees, Water & People (TWP) is pleased to announce Tyler Tawahongva as the winner of the 2014 Green Business in Indian Country Start-Up Award. Mr. Tawahongva, a Hopi member of the Coyote Clan from Hotevilla, Arizona, will receive up to $40,000 in start-up capital and technical assistance to expand his company, Cloud Nine Recycling.

Tyler returned to his hometown of Tuba City, Arizona in 2010 after working for American Express for ten years. While exploring career options, he found that he could make extra income from recycling. He has been recycling for four years now and recently expanded Cloud Nine Recycling to include paper products, plastics, aluminum cans, metals and electronic equipment.

“This principle of being a Native and a steward of the earth is a driving force to my endeavor of creating this recycling business.” Explains Tyler, “With the award from Trees, Water and People, I will now be able to continue my mission to intercept waste from landfills and provide jobs for the local community as well as bring awareness to the need for recycling in my community.”

The Green Business in Indian Country Start-Up Award is an exciting culmination of Trees, Water & People’s annual Green Business Development Training and Business Start-Up Mentorship Program. Using the Indianpreneurship curriculum developed by Our Native American Business Network (ONABEN), this new multi-tiered approach provides Native American students with the practical knowledge, resources, and confidence needed to create their own businesses.

“We had several excellent green business plans submitted, but Tyler’s personal statement and feasibility plan really stood out. Recycling is one of the bases of community-wide involvement in addressing climate change and sustainable living, and TWP is very excited to help support Cloud Nine Recycling get a strong start.” Said Jamie Folsom, TWP’s National Director and a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

TWP is proud to sponsor this Award and offer assistance to Native American entrepreneurs like Tyler who are eager to create and grow their green business ideas.

For more information please contact Jamie Folsom at jamief@treeswaterpeople.org or call 970-484-3678.