As the original inhabitants of our country, Native Americans have played a significant, yet often unrecognized role in shaping our country. In celebration of Native American Heritage Month this November, LegalZoom decided to highlight five of our favorite entrepreneurs—who just happen to be Native Americans too.
Native American CEOs? Yes!
Red Shirt, an Oglala Sioux (wiki) Stephen Mills, CEO &President of AQIWO
HELEIGH BOSTWICK (2010) writes:
1. Dave Anderson, Founder of Famous Dave’s Barbeque Franchise
Dave Anderson, member of the Choctaw/Chippewa Indian tribes and Founder of Famous Dave’s Barbeque franchise, is a classic entrepreneur with a string of failures and one huge success—an entrepreneur whose spirit and determination finally paid off. Voted the “Hottest Restaurant Concept in America” by Nation’s Restaurant News, Famous Dave’s has over 170 restaurants in operation, and Anderson, through various business ventures, is responsible for creating more than 200,000 jobs over the years. Anderson is also an enrolled member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Lake Superior Band of Ojibwa of northwest Wisconsin. (Source:www.famousdaves.com)
2. Stephen Mills, CEO and President AQIWO
Stephen Mills, CEO and President of AQIWO, never forgets his American Indian heritage—not even when naming his company, AQIWO, which is not an acronym as one might suspect, but rather the Chumash word for “shooting star” or “light.” The Arlington, Virginia, based information securities company pulled in revenues of $2.6 million in 2009. Mills gives back to his community as well, spending time mentoring American Indian youths and business owners who are interested in learning about government contracting. “I am very proud of my heritage and give back in the way of mentoring other Native American entrepreneurs,” he says. “I serve as an example and am always happy to speak with those interested in doing it themselves.” (Source: www.inc.com)
3. Henry Red Cloud, Founder, Lakota Solar Enterprises
Hailing from South Dakota, Henry Red Cloud is a direct descendent of Sioux chief Red Cloud, famous for his Red Cloud’s War (1866–1868) when he fought the U.S. Army for control over parts of Montana and Wyoming. But that was then and this is now and Henry Red Cloud is making his own name for himself as founder of Lakota Solar Enterprises, a company that manufactures residential solar heaters, and alternative energy and conservation devices. An attorney with graduate degrees in sociology and cultural ecology, Red Cloud started the business in 2004 as a partnership with the Colorado-based non-profit group, Trees, Water and People. Lakota Solar Enterprises is believed to be the only renewable energy business fully owned and operated by Native Americans in the United States. (Source: www.cleanenergypioneers.com)
4. T. David Petite, Inventor of Smart Meter Technology
T. David Petite holds more than 30 patents relating to networking, remote control, activation, and monitoring of wireless-enabled devices associated with wireless ad-hoc networks. Petite is perhaps best known for inventing “Smart Meter” technology, which his company, StatSignal Systems, Inc., patented in the late 1990s. Petite owns several companies, including Intus IQ where he is a partner, that licenses the technology to other industries such as utilities and health care. This year, Petite was honored by the Georgia State Senate in recognition for his innovations in wireless technology and his engineering and inventing career. Petite is a member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribe and in 2009 founded the Native American Inventors Association. (Source: nativeamericaninventor.com)
5. Evans Craig, Internet Technology Services
Evans Craig is a man with a mission: “To get all Natives on the high-speed Internet, by providing affordable, yet quality technological services to my people.” Craig, a Navaho who also celebrates his Scottish heritage by wearing a kilt on occasion, has a number of entrepreneurial ventures in the works, including conducting Technology Assessments on Native American Schools and Tribes, and assisting Native Tribes and businesses with online marketing. Among his many accomplishments are designing a National Network to connect up 49 Tribal Nations for the Council of Energy Resource Tribes (CERT). (Source: www.evanscraig.com)
Louie Wise, III, President, Climate Control Mechanical Services, Ocala, Fla. 2010 Revenue: $6.3 million
Despite his minority status–and also having a hearing disability–Louie Wise, III, refuses to make excuses. “Those things are part of who I am but they have never been used to gain access, apply for any personal benefits or limited me,” he says. A descendant of the Creek Indian tribe, Wise achieved his position at Climate Control Mechanical Services by taking full responsibility of his actions, a virtue he tries to imbue in his employees. “Planning, processes, and performance enable someone to be successful. Heritage is something that should be understood, respected, and conveyed to your children, but never exploited.”
Arrow Strategies CEO Jeff Styers, 50 percent Mohawk and Onondaga Clear Sky Indian, started boxing at 13 years old after being inspired by the movie Rocky. “I loved the mano a mano aspect of it, that you can draw and control your own destiny,” he says. Styers became a celebrated amateur boxer in his hometown of Wayne, Michigan, right outside of Detroit; he later joined the Marines Corp and made the All-Marine boxing team. He was honorably discharged in 1986 and went pro two years later, finishing his boxing career in 1994 with a perfect record of 11-0. With 113 career fights under his belt, Styers is one company executive you definitely want in your corner. –Dave Smith
February 22 2014 | N/A |
Yes, there’s a woman in the mix, http://www.inc.com/ss/2011-inc-5000-top-10-american-indian-entrepreneurs#8, Janice Guy, President, P3I, Hopkinton, Mass.
Janice Guy regrets the distance between her work in Massachusetts and her beloved home of Hawaii, but she is used to the separation. Guy’s father was a Marine, so growing up, Guy spent much of her childhood moving within the continental United States. During this time, her mother made every effort to ensure her daughter understood her Hawaiian heritage. She later followed in her father’s footsteps, joining the Marines after college. “The discipline from my military background, coupled with my strong ohana [“family spirit,” in Hawaiian] are deeply ingrained in the values of P3I.”
Brad Scott, President and CEO, Cetan Corp., Chesapeake, Va.
When Brad Scott decided to start his own IT solutions company, he felt very strongly that the name serve his company’s goals, but also honor his heritage. Scott, of both Chickasaw and Scottish descent, decided upon the name “Cetan,” based on Chetan ‘the Hawk’ from Native American mythology, the great messenger and observer. “It echoes the guiding principles of the company: speed, dedication, and strong vision,” says Scott. “I am a product of my family’s history and my company, Cetan Corp, is my way of paying tribute to my family and my heritage.”
Jim S. Williamson, CEO, New West Technologies, Greenwood Village, Colo.
New West Technologies, which provides various energy and IT solutions and services for local, state, and federal agencies, was originally Jim Williamson’s way of serving his own Native American community, the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe of North Dakota. In fact, from 1996 to 2002, the vast majority of New West’s clientele consisted of Native Americans. But now, Williamson prefers to keep his philanthropy private. “My support of Indian peoples is more anonymously through donations, primarily for educational scholarships and activities related to improving education achievement,” he says.
Noah Leask, President and CEO, Ishpi, Mount Pleasant, S.C.
“Ishpi,” in the Anishinaabe or Chippewa language, means to move forward, or to persevere; CEO Noah Leask does his best to instill this winning attitude into his employees, who are responsible for helping our Armed Forces dominate the information battlefield with IT and logistics support. “Nothing is impossible if you have the will to make it happen,” he says. “If you really want something, you have to plan, act on your plan, and work hard to make it a reality.”
Ken Novotny, President and CEO, CSI, Oklahoma City
A “proud member” of the Choctaw nation, Ken Novotny was raised in the minuscule town of Pocasset, Okahoma. “The entire town was three blocks wide and four blocks long,” he says. From journeying to Oklahoma State University to forming CSI, which provides network and IT support within the federal government, Novotny has held onto the lessons from living in such a tiny community. “In a small town business setting, you’re only as good as your name,” he says. “I apply that and try to do the right thing 100 percent of the time.”Paul Lombardi, President and CEO, TeraThink Corporation, Reston, Va.
Paul Lombardi grew up learning the importance of hard work. His mother, aunts, uncles, and grandparents all lived in an extremely impoverished packing district in Oklahoma, populated by many other members of his Choctaw tribe. “The lessons [my mother] learned were imposed on me and provided me with an ethic of diligence and hard work,” Lombardi says. He espouses these same principles at TeraThink, his IT management consulting firm. “This culmination of ethics and diligence have enabled us to effectively serve our customers.”
Brandon Clark, President and CEO
Brandon Clark, a descendant of the Choctaw tribe, gets most of his business savvy from his parents, who have spent the last 35 years owning and operating Oklahoma’s largest weekly newspaper, The Friday Newspaper. Clark’s parents constantly took responsibility for whatever the newspaper published, so when Clark launched his company RFIP, which designs and constructs outdoor wireless systems for utility and energy markets, Clark decided he would trust his employees to take responsibility for their business decisions. “We’ve got such talented people, and they understand the problems we’re facing,” he says. “As a result, the company as a whole is very nimble in how we adapt to the different markets and changes in the economy.”
Next, the contributions of Native American Indians to the U.S. Armed Forces … ah, it would take an encyclopedia to cover it!