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Mapping The Path To Entrepreneurship

Client/Funder: Build Navajo
Location: Navajo Nation (southwest U.S.)
Catapult Service Line: Research
Thematic Area: Entrepreneurship


Despite a land size comparable to the state of West Virginia and a population of just above 300,000 residents, there are only approximately 400 businesses (most micro and small) in operation on the Navajo Nation according to a 2008 article in The Economist, titled “Capitalism’s last frontier.”

The Economist touches on the logistical barriers and challenges inhibiting residents from starting or sustaining a business on tribal lands. It can take years to obtain a business license because of the maze of regulations that were originally put in place to protect traders over 100 years ago.

In 2007, the Navajo Nation government reformed their policies affecting business owners and reportedly decreased the timeline for establishing a business from several years to approximately one year. Regardless, navigating the steps to establish a business on the Navajo Nation remains a daunting task and a barrier to economic development and increased quality of life for Navajo residents.


Catapult worked with entrepreneurs and agencies on the reservation to dissect and understand the process and steps, as well as the relevant policies, to start a business on the Navajo Nation. Our work included:

  • mapping the processes, steps, and necessary stakeholders for business registration, certification and business site leasing,
  • using the map as a visual foundation, designing a resource for Navajo residents that want to start a business,
  • conducting interviews to provide anecdotal success stories from individuals who have successfully navigated the system,
  • working with DGTL/NVJO to translate prototypes to a digital resource for entrepreneurs.


Catapult launched Build Navajo in December 2016. Our goal is to decrease the timeline associated with starting a business and encourage individuals to establish their business by visually simplifying the steps. With Build Navajo, we can track how far a user makes it into the registration, certification, or business site leasing process and possibly use that information to help lawmakers make decisions on policy reform.