2011-01-12 / Front Page

LNI Business Plan Competition encourages students to dream big

Kaleb Shepherd accepts her first prize in the Freshman-Sophomore division from Courtney Two Lance. Kaleb Shepherd accepts her first prize in the Freshman-Sophomore division from Courtney Two Lance. The Lakota Nation Invitational is an annual event that involves hand games, archery, visual art show, business plan competition and basketball tournament. The Business Plan Competition, now in its third year, is aimed at preparing young people for a career in business for themselves while they are still in high school. The sponsors want students to think about becoming self-supporting while at the same time being an active part in the economic and cultural growth of the Lakota community.

This year, Lakota Funds was proud and appreciative of the opportunity to, once again, co-sponsor the Business Plan Competition, along with The Oglala Sioux Tribe Credit & Finance Program, and The Office of Indian Energy & Economic Development.

During the competition the judges commended all participants for the work and thought invested in their plans. All presentations reflected a great amount of research and effort on the part of participants. Also, for 2010 a category was added for Freshmen and Sophomores.

Joe Standing Bear and Logan Tucker shake hands with Ivan Sorbel and Kadem Fisher of Lakota Funds. Joe Standing Bear and Logan Tucker shake hands with Ivan Sorbel and Kadem Fisher of Lakota Funds. The presentations in front of the judges took place December 15th thru 17th with seven teams or individuals participating from Kyle, White River, Dupree, and Red Cloud schools. The scholarship awards presentation was held at the half time of the last basketball game at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City.

In the Freshman-Sophomore division, Kaleb Shepherd captured first prize ($750) with her idea of a beauty salon. Georgianne Larvie won second prize ($500) with a baby-sitting service; and third prize ($250) was awarded to Casey Fairbanks for her horse training business presentation. Lakota Funds provided the funding for the scholarship awards in this division.

In the Junior-Senior division, team Joe Standing Bear and Logan Tucker took the first prize ($1000) with Tigers Den Teen Center. Frank Sioux Bob grabbed the second prize ($800) with his presentation of a garment screen-printing enterprise; and the third prize ($600) was given to Christianne New Holy who presented a car wash plan. The Oglala Sioux Tribe Credit & Finance Program and the The Office of Indian Energy & Economic Development funded the scholarships for this division.

The impact of this competition is felt and seen in the example of last year’s competitors whose current experiences are briefly described here. Marci Redfish, Todd County high school advisor for Whitney Reasoner and Toni Lafferty, (2009 3rd. place winners) said her students keep in contact with her and is happy to report, “they went on to college. Whitney is majoring in marketing at the University of South Dakota and Toni is majoring in business at Sinte Gleska University.”

Laura Red Cloud teamed up with a classmate on a Lakota Culture Heritage Center idea and took the 2009 2nd place. She said that, “The competition was fun. There are a lot of kids out there who are missing out on the opportunities Lakota Funds offers. I wish I could have been at the recent competition but I couldn’t because I was involved in other things.” Tiana Spotted Thunder, her teammate, commented that, “As an advocate for the future I want to do whatever I can within my abilities. So, I want to do something to help the youth on the reservation. I have a fairly practical idea. Get a degree in clinical psychology, take business classes along with that and start an Emotional Health Clinic on the reservation.”

Finally, R. J. Lawrence, 1st place winner of the 2009 event, endorsed the business plan competition with words relating to his own life experience. His lawn-care and snow-removal business got a big boost from the contest a year ago. “It helped me better understand the business world. I learned a lot about business. In the wintertime I do snowremoval. I recently sold a snow blower, which I had bought with my IDA savings and bought a bigger one.”

Beyond his high school studies and running a business on the side, R. J. has bigger plans for College and a career. He says, “I would like to inspire other kids in schools so I would eventually like to be a public speaker. I’d like to speak to a number of the high schools in the state, our tribal, BIA, and non-native schools about starting a business … thinking of goals, what you have to do to achieve them.” Tawny Brunsch, Director of Lakota Funds, emphasizes that at the root of the Business Plan Competition is a spirit of “encouragement for kids to dream about self-sustainability and job creation, to dream about wealth for themselves and their families. We want to encourage students to know that they can have their own business here at home on the Pine Ridge Reservation and they can, not only support themselves but also, employ other tribal members here. We want to empower them. And we want them to know Lakota Funds is a resource for technical and financial assistance.”

Lakota Funds serves tribal members with a business located on (or to be located on) the Pine Ridge Reservation. Loan types include: Micro-loans (under $5000); Business Loans up to $200,000, a Business Line of Credit, and the Credit Builder Loan up to $2500. Lakota Funds also provides one-on-one technical assistance as well as business classes including Financial Literacy and Empowerment Thru Business Ownership. If you have questions or want to register for a class call 605.455.2500, or email,

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