Creating Greater Collaboration
The arrival of COVID-19 caused stress and financial hardship for many business owners all across the world. Native360 Loan Fund knew that their assistance and technical trainings would be more valuable than ever to small, Native-owned business entrepreneurs, ag producers/gardeners to market, farmers and rachers. Meeting with these business owners in person wasn’t an option, but through the use of Zoom virtual meeting technology, Native360 continued to develop strong business leaders in the Nebraska, Iowa and southeastern South Dakota region.
Native360’s strategy through the pandemic was to focus on three types of technical assistance for business leaders: 1-on-1 business coaching; local, regional and national trainings through Zoom; and the use of self-study.
Within the first few months of the pandemic, Native360 had their training platform, Initiate Prosperity, up and running. This platform was designed by Northern Initiatives, a CDFI located in Michigan, and is both proven and intuitive.
Initiate Prosperity blends resources, methods of delivery and content to allow for greater collaboration. This concept benefits the Native entrepreneurs that Native360 serves locally and regionally, but also allows for collaboration with other Native CDFI’s to benefit their community by scaling and leveraging resources.
“Entrepreneurs’ most valuable resource is their time. Having access to this online business development platform 24/7 will provide support when our clients need it,” Pete Upton, Executive Director for Native360 Loan Fund, said. “Clients can remain at their location, practicing good COVID-19 safety, eliminating travel time and expense and increasing the likelihood of using the technical assistance and coaching services. This method of training helped to reach more Native entrepreneurs who are able to participate across our broad service area and connect with Native entrepreneurs across the several midwest regions.”
1-on-1 Coaching and Self-Study
One-on-one coaching provides entrepreneurs with trainings on an individualized and case-by-case basis. Native360 utilizes eight small business coaches and consultants to help business owners, ag producers/gardeners to market, farmers and ranchers on a variety of topics including money, marketing and management. These sessions are designed to provide business owners with customized guidance and coaching through business-related challenges.
Initiate Prosperity has also recognized the importance of self-study. The online platform provides clients with tools that allow for a deeper understanding of business-related topics including business planning, branding and financial management.
Since the launch of Initiate Prosperity, a paradigm shift has taken place as a result of the program. Native360, partnered with two great plains CDFI’s, hosted a regional virtual training that connected 17 Native small business owners from three states. Each CDFI marketed the event to their database of clients and was able to bring a diversified group of business leaders together to share their knowledge and experiences.
“What Native360 has learned is that when all of the participants in the training are from the same community, they don’t share openly in fear of others in the group duplicating their competitive strategies or trade secrets,” Pete said. “By taking a collaborative approach with other Native CDFI’s and inviting Native clients from across the region to our virtual training sessions there were much more open discussions and interactions with the facilitators and entrepreneurs. The interaction and cooperation at this event was powerful.”
Zoom trainings have allowed for connection, a place for business leaders to bounce ideas off of one another, offer feedback and brainstorm new business ideas. The relationships that formed during these events last longer than the event itself.
These local, regional and national trainings provide more than knowledge for the entrepreneurs who attend. They put Native small business owners in direct contact with other Native small business owners in different industries and different backgrounds who bring different approaches to solving problems.
Native360 understands the challenges that small businesses face and actively works to help find the right solutions. They will continue using these, and many other resources, to strengthen the Native-owned business community.