Tribe creates small business center

Small Business Specialist, Loretta Velasquez
Photo Credit: Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe expands their economic development program to support a small business center, in an effort to encourage tribal member entrepreneurship. “Establish more small businesses on the reservation, and money gets circulated back into the community,” explained Eric Thayer, Director of Strategic Planning. The Tribe has economic influence, both on and off the reservation, together that is measured by the Tribal Gross National Product — a measure of the Tribe’s overall economic impact. Small businesses and a robust local economy all play into that.

Taking the lead on the Tribe’s new small business center is Southern Ute tribal member, Loretta Velasquez.

“My main focus is to help assist people with their dreams, [to help them] become financially independent and successful,” Velasquez said. “I want to see our community grow, our people prosper.” Velasquez is currently serving in a two-year apprenticeship position as the small business specialist. We are working from the ground up, she explained. There is a lot that goes into building a business and the Tribe’s small business center hopes to help with that process — from start to finish.

Employment is another factor.  Southern Ute tribal members, who may not see a potential career working for the Tribe, might see a path to success as an entrepreneur, or small business owner. These goals may be realized by utilizing the opportunities offered through the small business center. The center will create a framework to ensure that networks exist between local resources and entrepreneurs. “We want to make sure it meets the needs of the Tribe,” Thayer explained. “Free services will be offered to tribal members, but community involvement is encouraged.”

Networking will be a major component of the program’s strategy. Velasquez will be working with regional entities such as: Region 9, the Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Fort Lewis, the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development (IEED), in addition to the numerous programs offered through local colleges. The small business center can be the connection to local entrepreneur resources, offering everything from startup funding to long term business solutions. These resources would include: grants, loans and the business advice one often needs to move ahead. “We need to build as a community,” reiterated Velasquez. “We need growth,” she said, citing better broadband infrastructure and child care solutions for the community at the top of her list.

“We do encourage tribal members to reach out to Loretta and talk about ideas — make those a reality. That’s the whole goal, make these dreams a reality,” Thayer said.





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