TUBA CITY, Arizona – Three Navajo entrepreneurs walked away with $5,000 in start-up prize money plus one year of business counseling and advising services to get their start-ups off the ground, as winners of the 2017 Innovation Challenge. In January, Catapult Design launched the Innovation Challenge to identify Native entrepreneurs with business ideas to improve life in Native American communities. Six finalists pitched their ideas at Change Labs 2017 to a panel of judges and 75 Change Labs attendees.
And the Winners Are…
Timothy Clani Jr., a Navajo certified auto technician and founder of Min’s Automotive in Upper Fruitland, New Mexico, won for his idea to establish a mobile auto shop catering to rural customers. He eventually wants to develop an app to connect customers to a larger network of Native auto repair specialists.
Amber Kanazbah Crotty won for her project developing a model of financial sustainability and growth for a network of farmers growing traditional foods in Sheep Springs, New Mexico. The network will eventually source market chains.
Laura Clelland, a Navajo certified orthotics fitter in Winslow, Arizona, won for her idea to serve diabetes patients by providing foot care to reduce the risk of limb amputation in Native American communities.
All three Innovation Challenge winners and the three finalists will receive services from Native American Business Incubator Network (NABIN) designed to help develop their businesses from start-ups to full operations. They’ll begin with Launch Pad, a business plan bootcamp that will guide the new business owners in writing a business plan, completing a personal finance assessment, and beginning to use software for business operations.
“The start-up phase of any business can be difficult to navigate for new businesses owners. NABIN provides a structured approach that will help these businesses overcome barriers and create opportunities,” said NABIN Program Manager Jessica Stago.
The companies will also be matched with mentors to provide professional legal, accounting, information technology, and/or financing guidance.
“Our tribal entrepreneurs were excited about the Innovation Challenge, and the positive response from the community is a strong indicator that there need to be more opportunities for entrepreneurs to access start-up funds, and the mentorship and expertise that will allow businesses to flourish,” said NABIN Program Director Natasha Hale.
The finalists of the inaugural Innovation Challenge will eventually go on to mentor future Innovation Challenge applicants.
“Our goal is to help the founders establish their companies and become role models and contributors to the development of a strong entrepreneurial community on tribal lands,” said Catapult Design CEO Heather Fleming.
Catapult Design launched the Innovation Challenge in January 2017 to support small business ideas working toward positive social and economic change in tribal communities.
Change Labs and the Innovation Challenge are sponsored by Catapult Design, a design company that supports socially driven companies around the world, and the Native American Business Incubator Network, an organization supporting entrepreneurship in Native communities.