In Albuquerque and broader Indian Country, Native-run businesses are forging a new economic power. Explore founders who are challenging old narratives by crafting a dynamic Indigenous future.

17 people following Indigenous Futures

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Tina Archuleta

Itality

Reclaiming Wellness through Indigenous Foods and Natural Therapeutics

Vanessa Bowen

Bowen Creative

Native American and Women-Owned Creative Firm

Henry Jake Foreman

Karuna Colectiva

21st Century Indigenous-Based Social Enterprise

Lee Francis IV

Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers

Harnessing the Superhero Power of Indigenous Storytellers

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Origin Story

Itality

Itality is committed to providing our community with locally-sourced, plant-based healthy food options. Ultimately, we strive to promote and reclaim wellness in Indigenous communities. Native Business described founder Tina Archuleta (Jemez Pueblo) as an "example of Native entrepreneurship aligned with traditional values, such as reverence for Mother Earth and Indigenous wisdom. From advancing Tribal and food sovereignty to uplifting healthy eating as a form of self-respect, Archuleta continually returns to her core values when sharing her journey to plant-based wellness and how Itality evolved organically through deep care and focused intention."


Business Basics

Founders

Tina Archuleta

Founding Date:

2018

Geo

Jemez Pueblo

Identity

Indigenous Female-Identified

Solution

Product Service

Impact Area

Advocacy Race & Equity Health & Food Green Youth & Education

Problem:

Our Indigenous communities face the interconnected challenges of major food deserts, limited healthy options, and severe public health crises. As Native Americans, we have the highest rate of diabetes, and heart disease is the number one leading cause of death. Yet, we know that plant-based eating can reverse Type-2 diabetes and lower high blood pressure and cholesterol. I want my community to understand that we can reclaim our healing with our own hands. That’s what my business is about — trying to show people that we can meaningfully impact our lives in simple ways.

Solution:

Guided by the principles of local sourcing and plant-based products, Itality offers full-service catering, nutritional consultation, doula services, and food pop-ups. As we've grown, we've also boosted our support for local Native farmers, purchasing in the surrounding region whenever possible. For example, I buy my red chili from Native farmers and use local hominy from the North. The produce is always fresher and higher in vitamin content. Since I was once a Native farmer myself, these practices are deeply ingrained in our mission and core values.

Market:

My customers are Native people who are interested in eating healthier or who are already into health and wellness. I usually get great feedback, and customers express a lot of gratitude towards the initiative. Knowing that my food may be new to customers, I offer plenty of samples to get them to try something different for the first time. It's such a great experience to see people - especially youth - realize how much they love how the food tastes and makes them feel.

Traction:

Itality has grown its customer base organically by offering a wide variety of food and wellness services. We have regularly catered for the Notah Begay III Foundation, the American Indian College Fund, and the Native Entrepreneur in Residence Program, a business incubator and accelerator offered through New Mexico Community Capital.

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Origin Story

Bowen Creative

We create visual identities to push your influence forward, specializing in graphic design, web design, illustration, and sound production. Anything creative and thought provoking, we are there.


Business Basics

Founders

Vanessa Bowen

Founding Date:

2016

Geo

Albuquerque

Identity

Black

Solution

Service Technology

Impact Area

Economic Power Race & Equity

Problem:

Bowen Creative (BWNC) came into being in 2016 when a culturally sensitive design aesthetic was needed among BIPOC communities.

Solution:

We respond to the challenge of enduring stereotypes by producing creative work grounded in the personal experiences and cultural connections of Indigenous women.

Market:

Our customers reach as far as international markets for our retail products, ranging from young to older progressive thinkers. Our creative work attracts clientele from nonprofits, organizations, and individuals seeking visually striking design aesthetics. Most importantly, we offer unparalleled connection to the perspectives and values of Indigenous women.

Traction:

Customer growth and revenue have steadily increased in the past year through positive social media exposure, a compelling portfolio of completed projects, and a strong core of faithful clients who return to BWNC to fulfill their creative needs.

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Origin Story

Karuna Colectiva

Karuna Colectiva of Life works with young people from across the Southwest US to operate art, fashion, and design micro-enterprises. We teach youth skills such as screen printing, bicycle repair, and graphic design as well as new media techniques (e.g., blogging, digital marketing, etc.). Through the hands-on application of real-world skills, young entrepreneurs learn business fundamentals, engage in inter-generational communication, and participate in concrete community action. For example, our Sari­-Sari pop-up provides a market-­based learning laboratory for young people to incubate their ideas in a collaborative environment. They test and validate real products with real money, profits, and losses.


Business Basics

Founders

Henry Jake Foreman

Founding Date:

2015

Geo

Albuquerque

Identity

Indigenous AAPI Multiracial

Solution

Creative Product Service

Impact Area

Economic Power Race & Equity Green Youth & Education

Problem:

A critical issue in youth development is inter-generational engagement. The prevailing top down model of education, with its focus on reading and memorization, is not reflective of the culture of New Mexico nor capable of meeting the interconnected challenges we currently face. Ultimately, a sustainable future will require a co-­created culture where youth can take control of their education and participate fully in their communities. ​Educational independence is the key to achieving economic competitiveness and long-term environmental resilience.

Solution:

We use proven educational practices and green-based technologies to decrease our dependence on external interests and non-­renewable energy sources. In our hands-on learning models, participants use marketing, production, documentation and research tools to operate market-based enterprises. By tailoring these efforts to Native communities, we incorporate cultural knowledge to provide customized solutions for our communities.

Market:

From our extensive surveys and live event interactions (e.g., local growers markets), we have learned that our customers are diverse, socially conscious, and globally-minded. We use a variety of digital networks, communication channels, and established e-commerce sites to engage with potential consumers across the Southwest.

Traction:

Guerrilla marketing has played a significant role in sharing information about Karuna and engaging with prospective consumers. We have built a robust regional network of young people as well as educational, business, and community leaders to help grow our audience via social media, word of mouth, and public appearances. With guerrilla marketing as the foundation of our expansion model, our efforts have relied on strategic partnerships with individuals and businesses with diverse followers and contacts.

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Origin Story

Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers

Wordcraft Circle supports the work and words of Native and Indigenous people so that the power of their voices positively impacts community sovereignty, individual self-determination, traditional and cultural values, and creative expression. During the pandemic, Wordcraft absorbed Red Planet BnC and Native Realities LLC to sustain the effort of changing Native and Indigenous pop culture representation in comics, graphic novels, games, toys, and collectibles (including the Indigenous Comic Con). Our vision is to ensure the voices of Native American and Indigenous writers, storytellers, and creatives – past, present, and future – are heard throughout the world!


Business Basics

Founders

Lee Francis IV

Founding Date:

1993

Geo

Albuquerque

Identity

Indigenous Multiracial

Solution

Creative Product Service

Impact Area

Race & Equity Youth & Education

Problem:

For over 400 years, the representation of Native and Indigenous people in North America has ranged from poor to atrocious. These depictions have aided in the destruction of Native communities and nations and continue to have negative repercussions on Native identity, esteem, and self-determination to this day. Further, the dismissal of authentic and dynamic stories in favor of stereotypes has created a “locked room” where Native people cannot access mainstream media and tell their stories on their own terms.

Solution:

Our work is to promote positive and dynamic representations of Native and Indigenous peoples and communities through authentic storytelling and pop culture media. Key business efforts include a line of comic book publications; "Indigenous Comic Con," a pop culture trade show; Red Planet Books and Comics, the only Native comic shop in the world; and support for Native writers, storytellers, and creatives through resource development, promotions, advocacy, educational opportunities, and mentorship.

Market:

Our primary consumers are Native and Indigenous youth and communities throughout North America (US and Canada). Additionally, we have expanded to Indigenous communities in Australia and New Zealand through our Indigenous Comic Con. Secondary consumers are those interested in engaging with positive pop culture content, especially Native and non-Native educators.

Traction:

Over the past four years, we have expanded the Indigenous Comic Con to three locations (two in the US, one in Australia); we have launched our 14th comic book title, which makes us the single largest producer of Native comics in the US; we have increased our publication reach to over 250 libraries, schools and education centers; we have generated almost $200K in revenue for 2020; and we have adapted to the pandemic be consolidating our efforts under the Wordcraft Circle umbrella.

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Funding & Impact

How we'll use it

Food Trailer Truck (50%)

Equipment (10%)

Marketing (10%)

Overhead (30%)

Funding supports our journey to secure a storefront and kitchen. We want to provide a grab-and-go location where people can stop in and pick up as much food as they need for the week. I would be able to impact a larger community, reach more customers, and make more healthy food at scale. Given the challenges of COVID, we're looking to meet these goals in the short-term with a full-service food truck.

Funding & Impact

How we'll use it

Office Space (40%)

Marketing & Branding (32%)

Utilities & Equipment (23%)

Staffing (5%)

Funding supports our search for an external office with key equipment to offer a professional location for client meetings and more space to grow staff. The portion dedicated to an employee will increase production ability and project load. Marketing support will allow for broader client outreach through targeted advertising, branding opportunities, etc.

Funding & Impact

How we'll use it

Digital Strategies (100%)

Funding supports digital strategies focused on authentic stories designed to inspire and spark dialogue. Key activities will include creating digital content, designing new online curricula, and co-producing community health events with relevant partners.

Funding & Impact

How we'll use it

Staffing (35%)

Product Development (30%)

Support for Native Creatives (20%)

Branding & Outreach (15%)

Funding supports operational stability and helps us reach broader audiences through new product development, key resources for creatives, and extensive marketing efforts.