Spring Change, Bridge to Success and The Marketing Mix

Hello, friends and colleagues! It’s hard to believe that we are already in the third month of 2016! Team ONABEN has been incredibly busy! But, alas I found some time to catch you up on our progress and projects!

In February our team traveled to El Paso, Texas, where we kicked off our Bridge to Success (B2S) Program. B2S, as our staff affectionately refers to it, consists of a group of 15 small business owners from Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Funded by the SBA Office of Native American Affairs, the Bridge to Success program is designed to enhance our participants’ capacity to provide contractual services to the federal government, tribal entities, and minority supplier development programs offered by large corporations. Guess what! Our program was a huge success! I don’t think even I could have imagined a more successful kickoff meeting! The small business owners immediately bonded. And, each participant walked away feeling as if their time with Team ONABEN was time well spent. And, that’s a big compliment to our team. Thanks to each of our Bridge to Success participants and the National Center Native American PTAC for taking part in our program! I am thrilled to see where this project takes us, and the entrepreneurs involved.

Bridge to Success Cohort - Spring 2016

March is off to a great start! Team ONABEN just returned from Hawaii, where we provided training on Molokai and Oahu. Our work on Molokai is funded by the Administration for Native Americans, and our time on the island is always inspiring. The bond that we have with these entrepreneurs gets stronger and stronger. And, our island partners are a joy to collaborate with. The work on Oahu was a service provided to our friends at OWEESTA and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement. There is only one word to describe our experience…grateful. Team ONABEN loves meeting and working with new entrepreneurs. And, we love establishing new partnerships. I am a firm believer that collaboration and coordination is instrumental in creating true change. Why work separately when so much can be accomplished when organizations work in unison?


Let me see, what else? Oh, I found myself in North Carolina since our last communication. Remember the Authentically Cherokee website that ONABEN is creating for our artist-friends in Cherokee, North Carolina? Well, the website is coming along, and it was time for head shots of our artists and photographs of some of the artwork that will be sold on the site. I also met with our friends at the Asheville Arts Museum to discuss the Authentically Cherokee Fine Art Marketplace. We have a date for this year’s event! Join us on Saturday, June 4, in front of the Asheville Art Museum from noon to 6 pm.  I would love to see you there!

Big news! ONABEN has an addition to its Indianpreneurship Suite of Products! The Marketing Mix: The 4 P’s of Marketing is ready for distribution. Our newest workbook will make a wonderful addition to your training platform if you are a resource provider. And, if you are a small business owner or an aspiring entrepreneur, the text is an informative way to grow your knowledge of marketing. I am very proud of our team. Diversifying our product base is important. And, by the end of summer, look for another addition to our product list!


There is so much more I could write, but alas, I have writing to do for another project. But, before I close, I would like to thank each of you for your interest in ONABEN! We appreciate the support of our funders, the encouragement of our colleagues and the excitement generated by the entrepreneurs that we serve. Each of you, and the roles that you play in our work, inspire us to dream bigger, work harder, and plan better!


Talk Soon, V.


A Busy New Year for Team ONABEN

Hello, friends! The first month of 2016 is nearing an end — how time flies when you’re having fun and doing what you love! It’s been a busy New Year for Team ONABEN, and I don’t foresee our team slowing down anytime soon – we’re refreshed and ready to go!

Already in 2016, ONABEN is on the move. In early January, our team traveled to Hawaii to deliver the first of four training events on Molokai! Let me say that it was likely our best event to date! And that is a statement considering some of our best work has been conducted on this little island over the past two years. What made this event unique? Well, our team was accompanied by Louie Gong who assisted us in providing an artist training to approximately 50 students, and by addressing one of the island’s high schools in an assembly. I am always amazed by the creativity that flows through the Native communities that we find ourselves in, but when young people are behind the creative process, I am inspired even more! Our trip also included an evening workshop for adult entrepreneurs. Our team provided much needed information on best practices in social media management. I don’t know if I have ever been a part of a more interactive workshop! We are ever grateful for the support of the Administration for Native Americans (ANA)!

Always planning ahead for future projects, Team ONABEN made the most out of our time in Hawaii. Meetings were scheduled on Oahu, Kauai and Maui! I am excited to include that the meetings paid off. New partnerships were made…which means that new projects are on the way! It was a whirlwind trip of various plane rides, a little travel drama (cancelled flights, airlines we have never flown on…tiny airplanes!) and a lot of accomplishments!


As our team looks to the months ahead, our goal is to better serve the peoples and places that mean so much to us by taking the time to care for our team! A healthy team is a successful team! We are fortunate in that our projects almost always reach the level of success that we plan for. But, we are a small team and we are doing some pretty big things! As Team Leader my job is to make sure that all of our efforts are coordinated in a way that is most effective. How do we plan to do that? It won’t be easy, but my plan is to implement tools that will help all of us to accomplish what is necessary to reach our goals. We are focusing on time management and building a stronger team internally. To our colleagues, I encourage you to look within your own organizations. Dynamite comes in small packages! But, dynamite needs to be handled with care!

Look for some outstanding results from ONABEN’s work in 2016! We are literally all over the country…and, may even find ourselves outside of US borders. A couple of years ago, as ONABEN was rebranded, our mission changed a bit to include the word Indigenous. It’s time to explore the possibilities!

Want to catch up with ONABEN? In February, our team will be in El Paso, Texas, from the 24-27, managing a cohort group of 15 small business owners from Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas! What’s the plan? Well, our goal is to grow the capacity of our cohort members to deliver services to the federal government, to tribal programs, and just as importantly, to the private sector. Thanks SBA for awarding ONABEN with a 7(j) Grant! We will make the most of it, I promise!

Talk Soon, V.

Summer Update, July 2015

Hello, friends! It has been a while. But, that does not mean that ONABEN has not been busy! Our team has embarked upon some major grant writing. I wish I could say that the process is complete. But, anyone involved in the world of non-profits understands that in many ways fundraising is an on-going activity. And, that’s okay! Raising dollars allows our team the opportunity to stay connected to peoples and places that have come to mean so much to us!

There is much ahead of ONABEN in the coming weeks! The Cherokee Artist Marketplace will take place in Asheville, North Carolina, on July 11, at the Asheville Art Museum. We are very excited to be a part of what has become an annual event! If you aren’t familiar with ONABEN’s work with the Eastern Band Cherokee community and Sequoyah Fund, a Native CDFI, check out the Authentically Cherokee Facebook page!

In August, ONABEN will provide an entrepreneur camp to a group of Native American students in Smith River, California. The camp will provide an overview of business planning, marketing and financial management. I will share more information as the camp gets closer. ONABEN loves working with youth. It is always a rewarding experience.

You might recall that in March, ONABEN provided a similar service to the Mvskoke Loan Fund in Oklahoma. It was an awesome good time! The camps in Oklahoma were unique in that all participating students are aspiring artists! Our participants experienced some very cool successes. For instance, Shelby Webster, of Checotah High School, sold the rights to one of her artworks to a small business owner who intends to use the image as his business logo!

Oh, remember Trading at the River? Well, we had so much fun in Tulsa that we are planning a Trading at the River Marketplace on Friday, September 25, in Portland! The Marketplace will be an excellent outlet for Native business owners to expand their networks and grow their customer base. I am especially pleased to include that the artwork associated with the Marketplace was created by Maddie Lamb, a sophomore at Sequoyah Schools, in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Maddie was one of the students who participated in the art camps that ONABEN presented on behalf of the Mvskoke Loan Fund! Way to go Maddie!



Geez, all this talk about the art camps and the artists has me reminiscing. Too bad our friends couldn’t catch a glimpse of all of the fun that we had…Oh, wait a minute…you can! Take a look at a video that our team created!

Link to the video

Trading at the River 2015

Hello Friends of ONABEN,

Whew! It’s been a busy week. This little lady is tired! Our team just finished up our 13th Annual Trading at the River Conference and Marketplace. With every event, something new is learned and our team grows.

This year’s event was a bit different…it was in Oklahoma…outside of the Pacific Northwest for the first time ever. We faced challenges, but we overcame. It was exhausting, but provided a great opportunity to come together as a team and excel. In fact, I have come to view Trading at the River as a sort of team building exercise for ONABEN’s staff. We have the chance to work hand in hand. But more importantly, as we encounter roadblocks with the event and all of its complexities, it affords us the opportunity to face challenges as a TEAM! And, wow, do we ever persevere! If ever a team supports one another, it is ONABEN. We all step in and do. It was exciting to have our Portland teammates in Oklahoma with me this week. I loved sharing the place I call home with colleagues/friends who are much more like family.

We have great partners throughout Indian Country, and Oklahoma is no different. I had so many friends step up this week just to support ONABEN, our team, and me. My heart is happy. And, my smile is big. We laughed and celebrated joint successes. And, at times, we shared the same frustrations…the weather is an uncontrollable force. But, if Team ONABEN and its band of friends are good at one thing…it is making lemonade out of lemons! I don’t believe any event is free from complication and that’s not a bad thing. After all, that’s what strengthens the team!

This year’s event included our friends from Hawaii who were kind enough to bring a lot of Aloha to Oklahoma. We were treated to a hula dance and a fashion show of Native Hawaiian designs. I hope our Hawaiian friends enjoyed Oklahoma as much as Oklahoma enjoyed them.



Our conference also included the vocal styling of Lainey Edwards, an Oklahoma Native and citizen of the Choctaw Nation. Lainey lives in Nashville nowadays, but stays closely tied to her Oklahoma roots! This talented artist is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. If you haven’t taken the time to check Lainey out, visit her website at

Link to her website

Speaking of art, a big thanks to First Peoples Fund and its staff for making the journey to Tulsa to provide artist training! ONABEN appreciates your support and participation. We had a great lineup of panelists at this year’s event…if you weren’t able to attend, you really missed out!

Cherokee Youth Choir

Hmm, what else was new this year at Trading at the River? Oh, yes, our friends from OWEESTA journeyed to Tulsa to provide a Building Native Communities training! It is always a treat to see our friends from this dedicated organization!

The last two days have been a whirlwind of activity! I want to thank ONABEN’s team for their hard work and dedication to our ever-growing, forward-moving organization. We are a small but mighty team. I also have to thank ONABEN’s Board of Directors for their support and encouragement. We appreciate your time and commitment to ONABEN’s mission!

Just an update on our long-term projects! ONABENs ANA funded work continues to leave positive imprints in the communities that we serve. Remember the Artist Marketplace we hosted in 2015, in partnership with our friends at Sequoyah Fund? Well, our next event is scheduled for July 11. Looks like we may have an annual event on our hands! Additionally, I am excited to include that ONABEN has recently produced a video vignette that offers a little insight into our work in North Dakota! ONABEN loves to tell the story of, not only our team’s work, but also the stories and successes of the entrepreneurs that we serve!

Check out ONABEN’s latest video!

“Talk” soon, V.

Entrepreneurial Exchange Program. NAFOA & OWEESTA


Hello Friends!

It’s been a while, so we have a lot to catch up on! Very recently, ONABEN spent some time in Moloka’i in coordination with our ANA grant. This trip was a special… but then again, aren’t they all? So, maybe I shall say this trip was extra special, as a group of Oklahoma entrepreneurs made the journey with us as part of an Entrepreneurial Exchange Program made possible by the Mvskoke Loan Fund. It was really an interesting visit! I love the way our project has paved the way for new partners to get involved and brought additional resources to the island. What a great way to promote peer learning!

The Oklahoma group was treated to tours of local farms, a traditional meal, took part in job shadowing, and were included in ONABEN’s ANA learning event, which is always an insightful process! The Hawaiians are the most amazing hosts! They made our Oklahoma friends feel right at home! Aloha was in the air everywhere the group went!

In less than two weeks, the Hawaiian entrepreneurs and our local partner, Jennifer Hawkins of the Kuha’o Business Center, will head to Oklahoma for the next phase of the exchange program, which includes participation in Trading at the River! I know our Muscogee (Creek) Nation family will make our Hawaiian cousins feel just as welcome! I hear our Hawaiian friends will be treated to some Oklahoma cooking, inclusive of what is traditional to their host tribe, as well as a little immersion into the Native culture that encompasses Oklahoma. This Cherokee girl/Oklahoma kid is some kind of excited! Do you have any idea how amazing it is to share a little bit of my home with the Hawaiian community that has become a home away from home for me? Wow, it is hard to put into words!

Additionally, over the last month, ONABEN completed a series of art camps as a part of a contractual services contract with our friends at the Mvskoke Loan Fund! In less than a month, we provided entrepreneurial development services to almost 50 students from four schools and one at-large event. It was crazy fun! I had the pleasure of helping provide training at four of the events and I was amazed at the artistic ability of the students, not to mention their love of the arts! Best part? These talented, young artists will showcase and sell their art at ONABEN’s Trading at the River Marketplace, on May 6, at the Riverwalk in Tulsa. Wado Mvskoke Loan Fund for taking an interest in our Native youth. And, Mvto for including ONABEN in your work!

Now just this week, I attended the Native American Finance Officer’s Association (NAFOA) Conference in Austin. It is always a treat to network with Indian Country’s leaders. I want to say “congratulations” to our friends at OWEESTA for winning NAFOA’s Education Program of the Year Award! ONABEN was the recipient of that award last year, so I know what being recognized by your peers can mean to a team and team leader. I am so proud to call OWEESTA a partner in the industry, and best of all, I am honored to call so many members of its team my personal friends. So proud of and for you all!

As you can imagine, our team is working furiously to produce a successful conference! Thanks to all of our sponsors for their continued support of Trading at the River! I want to send a special thanks to my friend, Will Lowe, and his team at the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. We needed some help in the last remaining weeks and wow, have they ever stepped up! Our partners and friends in Indian Country are the best! If you haven’t registered for the event, it is not too late! Just go to the conference website at www.tradingattheriver.com!

There is so much more I could write about the conference, but I will leave that for later… well, maybe one more detail. Do you like country music? Well, as you all know, I was born and raised in Oklahoma, so country music is a big part of me! At this year’s Marketplace, I am excited to share that Choctaw singer, Lainey Edwards, will be joining us at the Riverwalk to share some of her music with us! I met Lainey in Nashville a few months back and let me say, she is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside! And wow, talk about a velvety voice! Don’t miss out, join us at the Riverwalk on May 6 in Tulsa, Oklahoma!


“Talk” soon, V.

Native Marketplace, July in Asheville!

Hello Friends! Wow, what a week it has been! Team ONABEN presented three youth art camps to three different schools in Oklahoma in coordination with our contract with the Mvskoke Loan Fund, a CDFI affiliated with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. I love working with youth! Have I ever mentioned that? If not, well I do. Youth projects are probably at the top of my list. Why? Well, that’s easy. The youth are the future of tomorrow, so how can we not invest in them? Wado and Mvto (thank you in Cherokee and Creek) to the Mvskoke Loan Fund for understanding the importance of youth projects, and an even bigger thanks for including ONABEN and its team in your work.

The workshops consisted of two days of artist entrepreneurship activities. Art played a central role in the agenda. What kind of business topics can you learn in two days? The basics, really. We covered the importance of logo and design, naming your business, creating effective mission statements, basic financial management and marketing! Best of all? The students were able to be both artistic and interactive. We have had too much fun this week! The students were insanely creative and so inspiring. I love them all.

One of the students in our workshop is very athletic and perhaps because of his dominance in this area never really recognized his creative potential. Being a lover of words, I recognized his ability immediately. Art takes all forms, not just pen and paper or paints or chalk. Before this workshop, this young man thought that sports would be the direction that his whole life will take. To this young man I say the sky is the limit. Companies pay lots of money to professionals not nearly as skilled as you at slogans! Embrace your communicative side Damon; it might take you further and higher than you ever realized is possible!

Two, short days after the last camp for the week, I find myself in Asheville, North Carolina, with my seven year-old daughter Braley in tow. As we landed, a thought occurred to me. I was seven the first time I came to North Carolina, and my, how I loved it….still do.

BraleyAshevillePost Veronica Asheville

Today, I met with the Asheville Art Museum to discuss our Native Marketplace in July. It was a very productive meeting! The museum staff is amazing and this partnership may be the most lucrative that we have established in this area for our Authentically Cherokee Artists. I’m so excited, this year’s event will be even more amazing than our first! Looking for something totally cool and culturally enlightening to do this summer? Come see us at the Asheville Art Museum July 11th!

Oh, my! The fun that my little lady and I have had! We’ve bought chocolate and ATE chocolate and enjoyed farm to table food from some of my favorite places in Asheville. We have embraced art and admired the talent that fills the streets of downtown. And, we have enjoyed this time together. I am so thankful for the opportunity to share my work with my children. My grandmother included me in her work at seven, and look where it led me. Life sometimes comes to a complete circle. My grandmother and her love of art and artists would shape the course of my life. But, at seven, I had no idea. As I introduce Braley to different places and new cultures, I find myself wondering where her life will take her. Whatever the direction, I believe that the inclusion of our Native American heritage will forever follow her. Tomorrow she gets to meet the artists in Cherokee that have come to mean so much to me. I cannot wait. I know that she will love them as much as I do. And, that my friends, might be the imprint that lasts a lifetime…It did with me.


Thank you, grandma for the direction that you sent me. I wonder if you knew then how your work would inspire me? Somehow, I think that you did. As I look back upon yesterday, my heart is filled with so many emotions. What a magical journey to share with you, Lucille Walker (AKA grandma) From Oklahoma to Alabama to Tennessee to North Carolina, you changed my life. What a gift. It never leaves me and even after all of these years fills my mind with wonder and my soul with happiness.

“Talk” Soon, V.



Passion to Reflection to Success to Celebration..All in a Day’s Work….

Hello Friends! Are you as busy as me? I hope so!

How I love the work we do. As usual, Team ONABEN is engaged in a flurry of activity. Where to begin? Where else but with entrepreneurial development, which you know is a big deal in ONABEN’s world. We constantly advocate for the establishment and growth of Native-owned businesses, so we’re very excited that one of our own has taken the “plunge,” so to speak. ONABEN’s April Lemly recently opened her own flower business. Her flowers are beautiful and her arrangements are stunning! I am so proud of her and her accomplishment; what a testament to the work we do!


As if work could not get any better, it looks like the Authentically Cherokee Native Market will take place at the Asheville Art Museum! How befitting. There simply could not be a better place to showcase the talented artists ONABEN works with from the beautiful Smoky Mountains of Cherokee, North Carolina. If I’m not mistaken, I think the one and only French Broad Chocolate Lounge is right next door! Oh, my…be still my beating heart!

I’ve spent a good amount of time at home in recent weeks. There are times when that is the best place for all of us. The break in travel has given me the chance to look ahead at all of our projects, celebrate all that we did right in 2014, and determine what we can do better in 2015! The reflection has been enlightening, and — at times — emotional. I can honestly say that I have a true passion for the work we do and the people we serve.  Our team works hard to not just build relationships with our audience but to maintain and grow those relationships over time.

In one of the first workshops I conducted for ONABEN, I met Bryan and Denise Brown. Denise, a member of the Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians of California, had a dream of opening a childcare center. In turn, Bryan had a dream of making her wish come true. Having years of experience in the field, Denise knew exactly how her business would be structured. I can honestly say I have never had two people work harder on a business plan. They paid complete attention and visited with me during every break. I loved their passion. Nothing would stand in their way.

Access to capital was problematic, as it is in many Native communities. However, Bryan and Denise had a plan. The two invested the dollars they could as often as they could. They painted and cleaned and remodeled. They struggled. However, they persevered through everything. Best of all, they succeeded. They encouraged me as much as I encouraged them. In the beginning, I provided a lot of marketing tips and I did a lot of cheerleading.  And, once in awhile, I did a lot of nail biting. LOL! I saw how much their shared dream meant to them and wanted more than anything for them to make it.  During that first entrepreneurial workshop, the Browns adopted my children and me, and in turn we adopted them. We call them our California family. To this day, we do our best to see one another anytime I find myself in the Oroville or Sacramento area. Recently, I received a private Facebook message from them. It was big news. It went a little something like this:

Hey girl,

Thought you would appreciate some news. The business is doing great! We were approached by Head Start to partner up with them. We were one of two sites chosen for Oroville and one of eight for the whole Butte County. They received a $450,000.00 grant from a 1.5 billion grant allocated for low income subsidies. We may expand sooner than planned. We almost doubled our billing from 2013-2014. Hope your life is bringing great things to you. ~ The Cali group !

In addition to being adopted, that trip provided much needed clarity to my son regarding my work. He and my daughter accompanied me to conduct one of the trainings in Oroville. As I concluded the training and passed out certificates of completion to my participants, they passed out hugs to me…some with long embraces and some with tearful expressions of thanks. A participant reached for my son, who thought he was going to get a handshake. But instead, my big ‘ole, 6’4” boy was pulled into an embrace. And the trainee said to him, “Thank you for sharing your mom with us. We needed her.” Even now, as I write this, the tears well up in my eyes. My son turned, looked at me, and said, “I know what you do now, Mom. I never knew how to explain it. But, now I understand. I’m proud of you.” It is not always easy to leave one’s children, even for work. But in that moment we both found peace.

ONABEN Pic 1 copy

My heart is warm. And, that’s why I love this work. Stay tuned, friends. There is so much more to come.

“Talk” Soon, V.

“Aspire to Inspire: Arts…Culture… Entrepreneurship” is the theme for Trading at the River 2015

Hello, Friends! What’s new with ONABEN? On Monday, Selena and I will travel to beautiful, Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the Administration for Native American’s Grantee Meeting. We are always excited to network with our peers, many of whom are more like life-long friends than colleagues! And we are honored to have been asked to sit on two separate panels to share ONABEN’s ANA funded project. As you all know, I am always excited to share the stories of our work in North Carolina, North Dakota, and Hawaii.

Our staff continues to plan our annual event and Marketplace, Trading at the River. As you may recall, this year’s event will take place in my neck of the woods – Tulsa, OK! This year’s conference theme is, “Aspire to Inspire: Arts…Culture…Entrepreneurship.” We are so grateful to the Muscogee Creek Nation for hosting this year’s conference! They have been wonderful to work with and are so accommodating, and we hope that all of you can join us for this 1.5 day event! It is a great opportunity to expand your network, learn from leaders in the field of business development, become more familiar with cultural tourism and movements in Native arts initiatives, grow your capacity to effectively market your business endeavor, and even pick up a tip or two on video production!

Tony Johnson, Artist of the Year. 2015

Tony Johnson, Artist of the Year. 2015

Don’t forget that February 1st kicks off our early-bird registration, and we have some amazing rates! Our conference site is up, so check it out at wwww.tradingattheriver.com. Look for our conference agenda to be posted soon! And, the marketplace? Well, just let me say, we have some space for the marketplace – our partners have graciously allowed us to use the Riverwalk as the site of this year’s Native Marketplace! We will be able to accommodate more vendors than we have in the past, and we are working hard to find some entertainers to keep the Riverwalk stage hoppin’! I recently met a very talented singer in Nashville, turns out she is Choctaw…and, just happens to be in Oklahoma this week. Keep your fingers crossed that the lovely and talented Lainey Edwards will join our festivities and share her musical talents at the Marketplace on May 6th. I will keep you posted, as I am meeting with her tomorrow. Let’s hope that I am extra charming and persuasive!

But, seriously, Trading at the River is the place to be, on May 5 and 6, at the River Spirit Event Center and Riverwalk! A place to gather, exchange and grow, Trading at the River, Tulsa, OK-2015! For now, I will close. But, I will keep you abreast of our event and our travels to New Mexico!

“Talk” Soon!

Aloha, Friends! Team training in Moloka’i with OWEESTA.

Aloha, friends! This week the team and I provided a training in beautiful, Moloka’i, Hawaii. As I have often said, the people and the place are truly a wonderful experience. It is so very exciting to watch the entrepreneurs of this happy island grow their capacity as small business owners! We have made some life-long friends in this community, and for that I am so grateful.


One of the entrepreneurs: Kupu A’e Molokai

This quarter’s training provided guidance and instruction in financial literacy. The training was provided by one of OWEESTA’s finest, Krystal Langholz. She did a fantastic job! I hope this is just the first of many joint-trainings to come. Ms. Langholz is not just a colleague, but is a personal friend to ONABEN and to me. I was thrilled to introduce her to a place as warm and friendly as Moloka’i.

I spent a little time on the island working with the participants of the Entrepreneur Exchange Program that ONABEN is assisting our friends at the Mvskoke Loan Fund manage. The exchange program will bring together ten entrepreneurs from Moloka’i and Oklahoma to embark upon some peer coaching, business development training, job shadowing, and cultural enlightenment. This is a totally cool project that will bring Moloka’i to Oklahoma and Oklahoma to Moloka’i! All I can say is this week Moloka’i was in the house! And, wow, do they have some special events planned for their Oklahoma visitors!

Image1 Image2

Kupu A’e Molokai

The exchange participants will come together in Moloka’i in April and then in Tulsa in May. While I am very excited to see my Oklahoma neighbors in Moloka’i, I am overjoyed to share Oklahoma with my Hawaiian friends! Best of all? In Oklahoma the groups will come together at Trading at the River! And, let me tell you the Hawaiian Entrepreneur Exchange participants are bringin’ it! From hula to art, from culture to clothing design, from hugs to aloha, you will find it all at the Riverwalk during the Native Marketplace on Wednesday, May 6, in Tulsa, OK!

I found my way to the North Shore on Oahu this trip. The drive was beautiful. Entrepreneurship abounds on the roads that lead to Punalu’u. There were so many food trucks and fruit stands. I was in heaven! Too tempted to pass another vendor by, we pulled into a shrimp stand and purchased a pound of steamed shrimp…. What? You know how I love supporting small business!

“Talk” soon, V.

Happy New Year from ONABEN!


Happy New Year, Friends! ONABEN’s team is excited for the year ahead. We believe that 2015 is going to be a year of endless possibilities as we look forward to our work in Native communities throughout Indian Country!

What’s new with ONABEN? Well, with a new year comes new ideas and opportunities. In the coming months, our staff will embark upon some much needed strategic planning. We are gearing up for Trading at the River, which will be held in a different part of the country this year. I am excited to host our annual conference in Tulsa, which is what I call home. However, with that change in location the pressure is on! But, as a strong and capable team I am sure it will all come together in the end!

5dbc9c_955210ed121241e692555dacd8325690_jpg_srz_342_256_75_22_0_50_1_20_0 (Trading at the River)

In 2015, look for renewed and enhanced partnerships between ONABEN and its partners! I am very excited to report that the ONABEN team will collaborate with the OWEESTA team this year on as many projects as we can dream up! There is nothing better or more important than a coordinated effort, and our teams are certainly strongest together.

We will continue to serve our three ANA funded sites, and I look for the work in our host communities to just become better and better. In year one of ONABEN’s ANA grant, we experienced the establishment of Native-owned businesses, expanded networks, and an increase in capacity among – not just the entrepreneurs and organizations that we serve – but within our own staff as well. Best of all, we have witnessed and celebrated the successes of small business. Oh, the rewards of what we do! Honestly, it’s hard to imagine that it can get better than this….but I know that it will! You can keep up-to-date on our work in Molokai, Hawaii, Cherokee, North Carolina, and Belcourt, North Dakota, by following us on Facebook or by visiting our website!

I am also happy to report that at the latter end of 2014, ONABEN was awarded a grant by CFED to embark upon a little technical assistance around policy action. From a leadership perspective, advancing our knowledge and capacity about policy initiatives and advocacy is important. However, there is much work to be done and much information to take in. Wish me luck! It is a wonderful opportunity and we are thankful to be included.

The ONABEN training crew will be in beautiful Colorado in April to do some work for our friends at OWEESTA! And, our team has work ahead of us in California, Texas, and Oklahoma…and that is just the early months of 2015! Oh, and did I mention our growing partnership with OWEESTA? Just kidding, I know I did. But, seriously this is a big deal to me. Collaboration is a key element of lasting change.

I could go on, but this week our team is in Molokai’, Hawaii, working with our island cousins. As with every trip, I am in awe of the people and the place. A special thanks to our friend Krystal Langholz for providing financial literacy training to the entrepreneurs for us this week! Love our friends at OWEESTA!

“Talk” soon, V.