COMMENTARY By C. RICH PANTHER
I am happy to see the Entrepreneurship project available to Cherokee High School students; Cherokee needs more Native-owned businesses. Small business is an obvious route to diversifying our local economy and building financial security for tribal members. And a big part of that equation is to spend our dollars at locally-owned businesses.
It has been a hugely successful strategy to focus on the “home runs” of casino gambling. That has worked out very well for Cherokee and many tribes, but this all-the-eggs-in-one-basket approach neglects the diversification of our local economy via small business. The best way to fix this is to make it easy for members to start and maintain a small business. The benefits possible to the small business owner and the community are many.
What are those benefits?
1. Jobs for tribal members. Businesses provide income for more than just their owners. Working for a local business is a great option for many who have a family to support.
2. Tribal revenue increases from successful businesses. Tribal income from local businesses might sound small, but the numbers add up, and revenue will continue to build as more businesses thrive.
3. Each successful business is often a solution to some local problem or need. The tribe and the community have numerous needs that small businesses can fill for us.
4. Pride of ownership for members, workers, and the entire tribe. As an EBCI tribal member, I’m proud of our successful businesses doing valuable work that we can all feel good about. When one does well, we all do well.
5. Income for the tribal member/owners. Successful business owners generate income to support their family. Their business can provide an occupation, as well as unique products and services that might not be available otherwise.
What can we each do to help? Seek out small businesses when you need something. Consult the TERO list and ask around for who can best help you locally. Instead of thinking of individual businesses owners, think of small businesses as a community of partners in local economic development, and support their efforts in word and deed. The successes of our local businesses are also the successes of our tribe.
Successful businesses can provide great examples for others to aspire to, as they are proactive, self-sustaining, and solution-focused. These are great traits in a business and in an individual. I look forward to the businesses that spring from these aspiring entrepreneurs at Cherokee High School.
The tribe has good resources available, so go start a business and I will spend my money there. We all hope for a better future for the tribe. The foundation of that successful future is being built now, one business, and one dollar at a time. Buy local and buy Indian!
C. Rich Panther is an EBCI tribal member, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and business owner of Workplace Solutions, LLC – Cherokee Scanning and Shredding. He can be reached at Rich@richpanther.com. He welcomes any input or questions about this article.