In the last few decades an economic development movement spearheaded by tribal governments, community development corporations, community development financial institutions, and other nonprofit organizations, has created an environment in which Native Americans have shown that they can compete in the U.S. and the global economy. This environment has generated increased interest by Native Americans in private business ownership. As an integral part of this movement, ONABEN is working to empower entrepreneurs and the organizations that support them.
ONABEN’s mission is to support Indigenous individuals, economic development organizations, and communities by increasing opportunities for sustainable economic growth through culturally relevant entrepreneurial training and organizational development.
ONABEN – Our Native American Business Network – was founded in 1991 through the leadership and vision of four Oregon tribes who wanted to empower aspiring entrepreneurs in their communities and to help grow a private business sector on their reservations. Today, with over 20 years of experience working in Indian Country, ONABEN continues to strive toward our mission by providing Native entrepreneurs, and the community-based economic development organizations that serve them, a broad range of culturally-specific business curricula, programs, and customized assistance with a focus on increasing access to financing and building positive business-to-business relationships.
As an innovator in product development and a leader in capacity building, ONABEN has established a strong presence in the Pacific Northwest, and by leveraging our resources and partnerships, has become a national leader in implementing innovative strategies to increase family assets and expand private economies in Native communities through small business development.
ONABEN is guided by a vision of a healthy economy for Native American communities. Such an economy will be a mix of tribal and individual enterprises sufficient in size and activity to sustain our communities, our neighbors, the land and the creatures around us. Such an economy will offer our youth models for business success and opportunities to become business builders. By increasing private enterprises on reservations, tribes can diversify their economic base and decrease their reliance on federal revenues.
Our goal is to build social capital and increase organizational capacity of organizations, as well as the entrepreneurs they serve. We believe focusing efforts on these groups as foundational change makers in their communities and making them stronger and more capable is the most effective way to bring about positive change. Ultimately, these efforts will result in more vibrant Native communities and increased prosperity among Native peoples.
It is our hope and experienced opinion that this will in turn lead to increased financial literacy, more loans, and improved access to capital for aspiring Indianpreneurs and Native-owned businesses. All of which means more assets in families, more small businesses, more dollars circulating within local economies and more jobs created. Ultimately, our goal is to lay the foundation for a higher level of peer collaboration, self-sufficiency and resiliency, while reducing poverty within Native communities.
Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA) - 2014 Education Program of the Year for ONABEN – Indianpreneurship, “Entrepreneurial Empowerment”
2013 Honorable Mention for Honoring Nations All-Stars by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Honoree of the 2005 Honoring Nations Award by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development (sponsored by the Ford foundation), an awards program that recognizes innovation and excellence in American Indian tribal governance (ONABEN was among 14 finalists selected from applicants representing 41 Indian nations and seven inter-tribal collaborations)
Learn more about our work by downloading one of our annual reports.