Ft. Belknap Offers Entrepreneurial Training

Nov 15th, 2000 | By | Category: 12-2: Land is Life, Tribal College News

Lana Ulrich, a student at Fort Belknap College in Harlem, Mont., earned third place in the NxLevel Business Plan Competition sponsored by the Department of Commerce Small Business Development Center last spring. She developed a business plan to provide mortuary services to much of eastern Montana. U.S. West Foundation, which provided the grant for the development of the NxLevel Entrepreneurial Training Courses, also provided the prize money of $200. This annual contest is open to all students who have completed the NxLevel course.

“This type of training supports Montana’s entrepreneurs in becoming better prepared to manage businesses successfully,” said David Davidson. “A business plan is the principal tool for attracting money and for properly structuring financing whether it is a start-up or existing business. NxLevel provides a practical, hands-on approach to developing a small business.”

Fort Belknap’s NxLevel Entrepreneur Training Program takes entrepreneurial education a step beyond the norm. As part of Fort Belknap’s Small Business Development Center, the program has the challenge of introducing entrepreneurial thinking to a culture that hasn’t traditionally embraced entrepreneurs, Davidson said. The process involves refining the best of entrepreneurial thought into culturally sensitive curricula and weaving it into the fabric of a rich Native American tribal heritage.

The NxLevel Program is a product of the Western Entrepreneurial Network (WEN) of the University of Colorado, Denver, and is funded by U.S. West. NxLevel Entrepreneur is a business course that teaches planning skills ranging from developing business concepts to developing a comprehensive business plan. An important element of the curriculum is that organizations can modify the course materials to meet the unique needs of their clients.

As an example of cultural refinement, the Small Business Development Center combined the American Indian Entrepreneurs (AIE) curriculum (developed two years ago by Lisa Brian of Sinte Gleska University and Michelle Landsdowne of Salish Kootenai College) with the NxLevel Entrepreneur materials. The AIE curriculum consists of case studies that profile American Indians from the Rosebud, Pine Ridge, and Flathead reservations as business role models. Tribal colleges have traditionally relied on curriculum designed for national markets that don’t address the culturally complex issues that are encountered in growing businesses on Indian reservations. The blending of the two curriculums helps prospective Indian entrepreneurs understand the business challenges that are unique to Indian reservations.

Working in this innovative manner, the program has achieved a significant level of success, Davidson said. Since the spring of 1996, approximately 65 students have participated in the entrepreneurial training course, and 15 new businesses have started up.

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