By Kim Baca
From learning how to get ahead in a career to encouraging Pueblo women to get involved in local or statewide politics as another way to serve your community, female Native American business and government leaders offered advice and experience in hopes that they’ll inspire the next generation of Native women.
“I hope that when girls see me, especially young girls, they can see what they can do,” New Mexico House Rep. Georgene Louis said during the Native American Women in Business and Government panel held during the 10th Annual Native American Economic Summit.
Louis, 38, of Acoma Pueblo, the first Pueblo woman to be elected to the New Mexico Legislature, will start her third term in November in her district of West Albuquerque that is 5 percent Native American and 67 percent Hispanic. She said holding a position in statewide office is another way that Pueblo women could serve their communities if they are unable to hold a leadership position in some of their villages, which can be traditionally non-inclusive of women. She said Native American businesses are also often not at the table when issues of taxation or statutes are discussed at the state capital and encouraged Native business owners to get involved in the process.
Corrine Wilson, a CPA and owner of REDW, an accounting and financial advising firm with offices in Phoenix and Albuquerque, encouraged young people in the crowd to figure out their passions and work from there. When young people work for a company, she suggested they find a champion who knows their dreams and goals to help them move along in that company.
“In business, you plan your work and work your plan,” said Wilson, a member of the Ft. McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe of Nevada. “If you don’t have resources to get there, find someone to help you.”
The panel was part of several signature events during the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of New Mexico’s annual summit. New Mexico Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, who is a small business owner, told an audience honoring nine successful business owners during the 2016 New Mexico Small Business Week Awards Celebration Luncheon that the state’s success hinges on the success of small businesses.
“WE HAVE A GREAT BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT. WE’VE LOWERED TAXES AND CUT REGULATIONS. NEW MEXICO HAS SOME OF THE LOWEST PROPERTY TAXES IN AMERICA,” SANCHEZ SAID. “… INNOVATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP ARE CRITICAL.”
Sanchez also said the Internet provides an opportunity to bring jobs globally to the state, including rural New Mexico, so that it can continue to thrive.
As a way to bring youth and professionals together to provide mentorship, learning and networking opportunities, the chamber held the 3rd Annual Youth ‘Impact’ Initiative during the summit. Three high school and one college team competed in the annual Shark Tank Challenge, a business/service plan competition modeled after the popular TV show Shark Tank where entrepreneurs make pitches to self-made billionaires to gain investment dollars. Among the winners:
1st place of $1,500 sponsored by PNM went to Generation Ag
2nd place of $1,000 sponsored by the New Mexico Small Business Development Center Network went to Mothership Productions
3rd place of $750 sponsored by Los Alamos National Laboratories went to Radiant Technologies
First place winner, Lena Sanchez, a Native American Community Academy senior, pitched a plan to help fuel her new organization, Generation Ag, to get more Native American students involved in agriculture. She said if tribal nations were to be truly sovereign, they should consider food sovereignty and support local agriculture, an industry that has several career opportunities for young people.
Among other signature events, the AICCNM held its first Procurement One-On-One Matchmaking Meeting, and welcomed Navajo Nation leaders and economic development specialists to discuss how to do business with the Navajo Nation. About 20 buyers from Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories, and state and tribal governments, and 17 procurement-ready businesses were paired to discuss how the entities could do business with each other. One hundred four meetings were scheduled that day.
Russell F. Pedro, AICCNM business specialist and summit organizer, said this procurement matchmaking event will be one of several to be incorporated in the annual summit.
“So many of our small businesses can grow by doing business with local, state and federal government buyers and tribes,” he said.