SBA Celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November
National Native American Heritage Month gives us a chance to reflect on the economic impact that American Indians and Alaska Native populations make to the national economy. Small Native American-owned businesses can shape a community by creating sustainable and lasting jobs.
Today, there are nearly 240,000 Native American-owned small businesses in the U.S., and SBA is doing what it can to increase those numbers and encourage their growth. In just the last four years SBA supported more than $400 million in lending to Native American-owned small businesses.
Emphasizing the importance of Native Americans in helping to shape the nation’s character and cultural heritage, President Obama has issued a proclamation on National Native American Heritage Month. The President’s proclamation said, “In collaboration with tribal nations, we are making critical investments to improve health and education services, create jobs, and strengthen tribal economies.”
SBA developed the “Native American Small Business Primer: Strategies for Success” to help Native American entrepreneurs prepare for business ownership. It’s a free online business course that gives an overview of essential business principles and gives important information on SBA’s programs and services to American Indians, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian business owners.
One such Native-owned small business is John Soper Jr., President and CEO of Industrial Maintenance Service, Inc. in Escanaba, MI. IMS is a diversified general and heavy construction company which provides professional, technical, and construction services to production facilities, municipalities, government agencies, and the private industry.
Soper, a former U.S. marine, honed his experience doing construction work and taking on as many general labor projects as he could in order to provide for his young family. At the age of 31, Soper took the plunge into the world of business ownership working out of a garage next to his home in 1997. IMS had sales of $600,000 in its first year.
In 2003, IMS was accepted into the SBA's 8(a) Business Development program, which helps small disadvantaged businesses gain access to federal and private procurement markets. "The 8(a) program is an excellent strategy to ensure profitable growth in a company. There is no other program that could give us the knowledge we have gained as participants," Soper said. Today, IMS has sales of $7.5 million and 40 employees. The company is headquartered in Escanaba with additional offices in Minnesota and Virginia.
“John Soper has shown strength and determination from his decision to serve his country to obtaining his goal of entrepreneurial success,” said Gerald Moore, SBA District Director. “We are pleased that SBA’s program could play a part in helping him attain such success, and I am proud to highlight John’s story during National Native American Heritage Month.
We also continue to work with our Native Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and other community lenders to encourage them to make more small-dollar loans available in Native American and underserved communities with SBA's Small Loan Advantage and Microloan programs. SBA’s Office of Native American Affairs is working hard to provide the needed tools and resources, and our ultimate goal is to help spur job creation and to stimulate economic and business development in Native American communities.
Michigan District Office