Pine Ridge Business Wins Innovation Award, Faces Challenges from Fast Expansion

Pine Ridge Business Wins Innovation Award, Faces Challenges from Fast Expansion

ICTMN Staff
8/18/11

Social Venture Network (SVN), a national peer-to-peer network of socially responsible entrepreneurs and investors, has selected a business located on the the isolated Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Kyle, South Dakota for one of its six 2011 Innovation Awards.

Native American Natural Food—known for producing the Tanka Bar, among other organic, buffalo-jerky energy bars and meat products—will partner with SVN leaders, who will serve as mentors to the company.

SVN chose Karlene Hunter and Mark Tilsen, owners of Native American Natural Food, for the award because they are "on a mission to heal people and Mother Earth by innovating new food products based on traditional Native American values."

As an Innovation Award winner, Native American Natural Food will also get free SVN membership, and they’ll be honored at SVN’s 2011 Fall Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from October 27-30. There, Hunter and Tilsen will present their work to an audience of over 250 socially responsible business chief executive officers, investors and social entrepreneurs.

But Native American Natural Foods, whose projected annual sales are $1.5 million, handles a double-edged sword. Its products, like the Tanka Bar, can now be found in 4,500 stores nationwide, co-founder Mark Tilsen told National Public Radio. "The good news is sales have increased by 155 percent," Tilsen said. "And the bad news is sales have increased by 155 percent."

The problem: Its buffalo hot dogs have sold 12 times better than projected, and to meet demand, the company must quickly come up with $80,000 to buy the raw materials needed to fill the new orders, NPR reported.

In the current economic climate, getting credit isn't that simple, and banks are increasingly averse to lending to small businesses. Tack that on to the fact that Indian land has no collateral value. The federal government holds tribal lands in trust, so the company's nearly-paid-off building on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation doesn't register on its credit.

"We literally went to every single lender in western South Dakota that would talk to us," Tilsen told NPR. "I think we met with 11 banks, and none of them would even submit the application."

While some government programs are intended to throttle development in Indian Country, there are many road blocks to obtaining them, according to Brian Brandt, president of the Center for Business and Economics of the Northern Plains, an organization comprised of retired business executives who try to help younger entrepreneurs excel.

"The models that we have right now for lending, not only in Indian country but into businesses of this size, are broken, and it's going to take a relatively sophisticated approach to change that dynamic," Brandt told NPR. "And I don't see any on the horizon right now."

For now, Native American Natural Foods is meeting the growing demand through the combined resources of many organizations, including a successful Minnesota tribe and a Los Angeles, California-based community development fund.

RELATED PINE RIDGE STORIES:

ABC Airs Documentary About Pine Ridge, Indian Country Tunes In

#1 Your birthday becomes an international event. Reason #2 Feeds have become the talk of town Reason #3 Upload Pictures, Videos and create Blogs Next Reason Sign Up Subscribe MOST POPULAR Texas Governor Rick Perry Perry Touts Immigration Record While Supporter Praises ‘The Response’ for Breaking ‘Cannibal’ Indians’ ‘Curses on the Land’ Redhouse Family Jazz Band Redhouse Family of Musicians Puts a Navajo Spin on Jazz Protesters against Keystone XL and Oil Sands in Ottawa More than 100 Arrested at Anti-Keystone Protest in Ottawa FNX Goes Live FNX Native Television Channel Launches GuyFieriIndianTaco Food Network’s Guy Fieri Makes an Indian Taco at Tocabe See All See More Video Lakota Berenstain Bears Episode 1B Lakota Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist Activists at the Canada-Europe Round Table for Energy ‘Oil Orgy’ Interrupts UK-Canada Oil Sands Talks W. Ron Allen was honored by Ernie Stevens Jr. at the Global Gaming Expo. W. Ron Allen Named Indian Gaming Advocate of the Year Lakota Berenstain Bears Episode 1A Lakota Berenstain Bears Trouble at School National Indian Education Association Mary Jane Oatman-Wak Wak National Indian Education Association 42nd Annual Convention and Tradeshow This Month See All See More SCHOLARSHIPS Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Annie D. Wauneka Scholarship Miss Indian USA Scholarship Program American Public University International Order of the King’s Daughters and Sons Nihewan Scholarship Native American Education Grants American Indian Science and Engineering Society Northwest Indian Bar Association Scholarship Program First Americans in the Arts Scholarship See All See All NATIVE AMERICAN STUDIES University of Saskatchewan University of California – Los Angeles Cornell University University of Washington - School of Law Southeastern Oklahoma State University San Francisco State University First Nations University of Canada Cape Breton University University of Kansas University of Manitoba See All See All TRIBAL COLLEGES Turtle Mountain Community College Sinte Gleska University Dine The Evergreen State College Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute Navajo Technical College Sisseton Wahpeton College Northwest Indian College See All See All POW WOW ALERTS Waccamaw-Siouan Tribal Pow Wow Buckhead near Bulton, N.C. October 14, 2011 to October 15, 2011 Subscribe Pine Ridge Business Wins Innovation Award, Faces Challenges from Fast Expansion" href="../2011/08/pine-ridge-business-wins-innovation-award-faces-challenges-from-fast-expansion/" target="_self">Pine Ridge Business Wins Innovation Award, Faces Challenges from Fast Expansion

Pine Ridge: Do You Want to Know More?

Theda Clarke, Suspect in 1975 AIM Killing, Dies

Airing Friday: 20/20 Looks at the Children of Pine Ridge

Wounded Knee Post Office Under Siege, Citizens Fear Losing a Critical Service

October 10 Is Native American Day in South Dakota

Gangs Are an Epidemic in Indian Country—But They Can Be Stopped


You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page