The Youth Entrepreneurship Summit (YES!) is a non-profit organization designed for high school and college-aged Natives interested in business. It gives Native you the chance to learn from accomplished entrepreneurs about the strategies, skills, and practices that have helped them reach their dreams. The conference was held on Monday, Nov. 16 at the Buffalo Thunder Casino in Santa Fe, NM, and featured special guests including native actor/rapper Gary “Litefoot” Davis, Dr. Chris Emdin, Tasha Zuzalek, and S.R. Tommie. Youth representing the Southern Ute Indian Tribe attended the conference where they were able to expand their skills in business and leadership.
“Don’t let other people tell you what you can or can’t do,” said Gary “Litefoot” Davis during the opening introduction. “Don’t let yourself be dictated by the obstacles – find the solutions … I use my music now to teach [the youth] about Indian Culture. We want you to know that it’s possible for you to accomplish your dreams while being sovereign people.”
YES! is interactive, as participants are encouraged to ask questions of the participating American Indian Business people who have “walked the walk” in the world of business and can serve as mentors to the next generation of emerging business leaders.
“You have to believe in yourself more than you do today,”Tasha Zuzalek, Program Manager for Small Business of Facebook said. “I often say that I got lucky, but I figured out I worked super hard to get where I was. Go to the school you want to go to, get the job you want, and keep an eye on your goals.”
Southern Ute tribal members, David Boyd and Lakota TwoCrow did an activity with the audience by demonstrating a handshake they made, which they encouraged participants to meet someone new by doing the same.
“We created this handshake out of friendship, and we want you to do the same too,” Lakota TwoCrow said.
“Go on and meet someone new and create something with them,” David Boyd added.
Dr. Christopher Emdin, Associate Professor and Co-Founder of HipHopEd gave an enticing and motivating speech about holding onto tradition.
“Your history is all you have to hold onto your tradition. You have to express the nuance of your environment. Your elders hold knowledge that no universe will ever dismiss. “
S.R. Tommie, President of Redline Media Group, focused on the importance of integrity.
“Being humble is the most important advice I can give you. Never forget where you come from. Understand the world that we live in. You’re here for a reason, and that reason is to make a difference. If we put focus on having integrity, having our vision, respecting our past – we will make all the difference.”