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Our Community Development

NACDC jumpstarts Small Business Incubator for Blackfeet entrepreneurs
Fredrick Conway / September 2007

NACDC Small Business Incubator
Merlin and Janet Running Crane (left and middle), who own a small grocery store on the Blackfeet Reservation, recently met with Frederick “Butch” Conway (right) for service from the Incubator.

Browning, MT -- The latest project of the collaborative called Forward Blackfeet Community, the Blackfeet Small Business Incubator, is now underway. The new organization is spearheaded by the NACDC and is funded by a generous grant from the Tzo’-Nah Foundation.

Fredrick “Butch” Conway is the coordinator for the Incubator and has been working with the local Blackfeet business community and emerging entrepreneurs, as well as working with other collaborators to get the space and equipment ready. The Incubator will support micro and small businesses by bringing Blackfeet entrepreneurs together for training, planning and problem-solving. The project will use curricula that have been revamped to meet the needs of the small business people on the Blackfeet Reservation. Janet Paige, a small business expert consultant for NACDC, sees the training materials as a flexible model that could be modified to work in any Native community. NACDC anticipates working with community leaders on the Fort Belknap and Fort Peck Indian Reservations in 2008 to develop small business incubators as well. Each of those communities has identified an incubator as a critical business need.

The Incubator in Browning is located in the same building as the NACDC, Blackfeet Reservation Development Fund, the Blackfeet Community Foundation and right next to Blackfeet Manpower, a fellow collaborator. NAB’s Browning branch is also near by, making the total financial experience for Indian entrepreneurs easily accessible.

Elouise Cobell, the executive director of NACDC, notes that “there is a critical mass of support and expertise within walking distance of the Incubator that will enhance communication, inspire creative thinking and ensure the success of the project in the long-term.”

As part of the project, NACDC has partnered with MicroBusiness Development a nationally-known microlending institution headquartered in Denver, Colorado, to modify MBD’s business assessment product. This tool assists the entrepreneur in understanding what is needed to start or to expand a business and has been through several years of testing.

Getting businesses ready to borrow from the Blackfeet Loan Fund for start up or from NAB for expansion are two of the objectives of the Incubator project and the creation of sustainable jobs is another. These objectives fit right in with NACDC’s mandate to work collaboratively with Nativecommunities to “strengthen economic sovereignty.”




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