WINDOW ROCK, Ariz-Supporting small businesses helps strengthen the Navajo economy and empowers local entrepreneurs to create economic change on the Navajo Nation, Vice President Jonathan Nez said at the 7th Annual Navajo Nation Business Opportunity Day.
“The Navajo Nation is a powerful economic engine but our dollars end up supporting outside economies,” Vice President Nez said. “We need to buy Navajo to keep our sales tax dollars here on the Nation.”
Navajo Nation Business Opportunity Day was held on Nov. 28 at the Navajo Nation Museum. The daylong event was hosted by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) and the American Indian Procurement and Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) in conjunction with the Navajo Nation Division of Economic Development (NNDED).
Procurement Specialist for NCAIED PTAC, JoAnn Begay-Notah said the event focused on small businesses and entrepreneurship on the Navajo Nation.
“The events of the day support the Begaye-Nez Administration’s pillar of job creation in providing breakout sessions that explore tribally-specific issues as well as connecting tribal businesses with off-reservation opportunities,” Begay-Notah said.
One obstacle that entrepreneurs face, she said, is getting funding for working capital in establishing their businesses.
“We brought in the Navajo CDFI and the McCabe CPA Group to help educate small businesses about the foundations of accounting and establishing a strong financial statement,” she said. “That’s what a lot of our small business are lacking and they need this financial support.”
Elaine Young, Department Manager of Small Business Development for NNDED, said there was diversity in the types of business owners that attended Business Opportunity Day.
“There are those that want to do business with the Navajo Nation and there are those that want to do business with corporations like APS, SRP or Bashas’,” she said. “We have to bring this type of diversity together. We have many divisions and departments that do purchasing and we invite them to seek these opportunities out.”
President of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce in Arizona, Loren Tapahe said that the Business Opportunity Day gets more successful every year with growing attendance.
“More and more people have become aware of this event and they come here to network,” he said. “It takes getting out of your comfort zone, passing out your business cards and making contacts. Often in Indian Country we sit back and wait for people to come to us and as business people, we can’t do that. We have to find the opportunities.”
The spirit of taking initiative and doing for yourself is present in the Navajo teaching of T’áá Hwó Ají Téego. Vice President Nez said this teaching goes hand-in-hand with sovereignty.
“Sovereignty is the ability to govern and take care of yourself. This concept is similar to the teachings we all grew up with in being told ‘T’áá Hwó Ají Téego’,” he said. “That is why you’re here today, to take care of your family and in turn you’re giving back to the Nation.”
The vice president said supporting local businesses helps to build infrastructure that also supports further economic development in areas that need it.
“I challenge all of you to buy Navajo and let’s keep our money here,” he said. “We have the power to change the future for the better here on the great Navajo Nation.”