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Young entrepreneurs develop ideas for rez
Young reservation entrepreneurs pitched their business ideas Friday during the Native American Business Expo at the Frank B. Wise Complex in Fort Washakie. From left, grant administrator Rory Robinson, who helped fund the students' ideas, and students Herman Vasquez, Laurina Blackbird and Darin Surrel, who posed with their new iPads.

Young entrepreneurs develop ideas for rez

Jun 13, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Young entrepreneurs from the Wind River Indian Reservation pitched their ideas to attendees Friday during the Native American Business Expo at the Frank B. Wise Complex in Fort Washakie. The Eastern Shoshone Education program and Central Wyoming College partnered to offer entrepreneurial experience to 10 Fort Washakie High School students through classes with the Youth Entrepreneurship Project grant from the Economic Development Administration.

Eastern Shoshone Education program director Harmony Spoonhunter said this was the first year the group had taken on the one-year pilot program.

"The students were so proud of their business and business plans," Spoonhunter said. "The audience was fascinated with them."

Fort Washakie High School students Darin Surrel, 15, Herman "Manny" Vasquez, 16, and Laurina "Wolfy" Blackbird, 16, were part of the Ice House Entrepreneurship class, taught by CWC workforce training coordinator Dana Nicholls, during the second semester of the school year. YEP grant administrator Rory Robinson introduced the students Friday, adding that the students were quick to identify interesting ideas that would benefit the reservation and inspire others.

"They all had to think about what is missing in their communities and what problems need to be solved," Robinson said.

Surrel's idea consisted of having a transportation service on the reservation, Vasquez pitched his idea of a mobile entertainment business, and Blackbird said her plan is an arts-related business.

"This was a different way for them to look at their future," Robinson said. "They don't get to see a lot of entrepreneurship on the reservation."

The students received high school and college credits for the program. The Wind River Development fund provided funding for their business cards, which they exchanged with attendees after their presentations.

"We want to encourage them to move forward with their ideas, (and) we're here to help them in any way," Spoonhunter said.

The program will continue as a summer youth program with 12 students, ending with the entrepreneurship conference June 20. Guest speaker and entrepreneur David Petite will attend.

"There is hope that this will be an ongoing opportunity for youth in years to come," Deb Farris said. "Ice House teaches that entrepreneurs are problem solvers: they go out and look for a problem to solve, identify it and move forward from there."

Farris is the business development specialist with the U.S. Small Business Administration.

"Hearing the ideas presented by the young entrepreneurs was so exciting -- they are so smart and creative and they are our future," she said.

Local vendors

The business expo also had several sessions and keynote speakers who shared ideas with participants on how to take their ideas to the market, marketing their business through social media and growing their business in rural America. Several local artists and entrepreneurs also set up booths.

The speakers included accredited public relations counselor Ellen Sue Blakey who offered tips on the advantages of growing a business despite living in a sparsely populated state and general manager Patrick Adam Lawson for the information technology company Northern Arapaho Tribal Industries who suggested ideas on marketing a business through social media.

"I think the expo is important because it provides great opportunities for those interested in starting their own business or those already in business," Farris said.

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Wind River Indian Reservation