Native American Entrepreneurs

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As the original inhabitants of our country, Native Americans have played a significant, yet often unrecognized role in shaping our country. In celebration of Native American Heritage Month this November, we decided to highlight five of our favorite entrepreneurs—who just happen to be Native Americans too.

1. Dave Anderson, Founder of Famous Dave’s Barbeque Franchise

Dave Anderson, member of the Choctaw/Chippewa Indian tribes and Founder of Famous Dave’s Barbeque franchise, is a classic entrepreneur with a string of failures and one huge success—an entrepreneur whose spirit and determination finally paid off. Voted the “Hottest Restaurant Concept in America” by Nation’s Restaurant News, Famous Dave’s has over 170 restaurants in operation, and Anderson, through various business ventures, is responsible for creating more than 200,000 jobs over the years. Anderson is also an enrolled member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Lake Superior Band of Ojibwa of northwest Wisconsin. (Source: www.famousdaves.com)

2. Stephen Mills, CEO and President AQIWO

Stephen Mills, CEO and President of AQIWO never forgets his American Indian heritage—not even when naming his company, AQIWO, which is not an acronym as one might suspect, but rather the Chumash word for "shooting star" or "light." The Arlington, Virginia-based information securities company pulled in revenues of $2.6 million in 2009 and expects business to increase nearly 130 percent in the next three years. Mills gives back to his community as well, spending time mentoring American Indian youths and business owners who are interested in learning about government contracting. (Source: www.inc.com)

3. Henry Red Cloud, Founder, Lakota Solar Enterprises

Hailing from South Dakota, Henry Red Cloud is a direct descendent of Sioux chief Red Cloud, famous for his Red Cloud's War (1866–1868) when he fought the U.S. Army for control over parts of Montana and Wyoming. But that was then and this is now and Henry Red Cloud is making his own name for himself as founder of Lakota Solar Enterprises, a company that manufactures residential solar heaters, and alternative energy and conservation devices. An attorney with graduate degrees in sociology and cultural ecology, Red Cloud started the business in 2004 as a partnership with the Colorado-based non-profit group, Trees, Water and People. Lakota Solar Enterprises is believed to be the only renewable energy business fully owned and operated by Native Americans in the United States. (Source: www.cleanenergypioneers.com)

4. T. David Petite, Inventor of Smart Meter Technology

T. David Petite holds more than 30 patents relating to networking, remote control, activation, and monitoring of wireless-enabled devices associated with wireless ad-hoc networks. Petite is perhaps best known for inventing “Smart Meter” technology, which his company, StatSignal Systems, Inc., patented in the late 1990s. Petite owns several companies, including Intus IQ where he is a partner, that licenses the technology to other industries such as utilities and health care. This year, Petite was honored by the Georgia State Senate in recognition for his innovations in wireless technology and his engineering and inventing career. Petite is a member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribe and in 2009 founded the Native American Inventors Association. (Source: nativeamericaninventor.com)

5. Evans Craig, Internet Technology Services

Evans Craig is a man with a mission: “To get all Natives on the high-speed Internet, by providing affordable, yet quality technological services to my people.” Craig, a Navaho who also celebrates his Scottish heritage by wearing a kilt on occasion, has a number of entrepreneurial ventures in the works, including conducting Technology Assessments on Native American Schools and Tribes, and assisting Native Tribes and businesses with online marketing. Among his many accomplishments are designing a National Network to connect up 49 Tribal Nations for the Council of Energy Resource Tribes (CERT). (Source: www.evanscraig.com)