The 11th Annual Lakota Nation Invitational (LNI) Business Plan Competition had an unexpected, yet very welcomed, visitor. Oglala Sioux Tribe President, Julian Running Bear, watched several youth as they presented their business plans on the second day of the competition at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
“It was great to see support from the Tribe, and I think it made our youth competitors realize how important entrepreneurship is in our communities,” said Yolanda Clifford, Loan Officer at Lakota Funds, who helped organize the competition.
Eighteen youth from Bennett County High School, Cheyenne-Eagle Butte High School, Little Wound High School, Red Cloud Indian School, Todd County High School, and White River High School entered the contest. Oliver Miner from Cheyenne-Eagle Butte won the top prize – a $1,500 scholarship – as the 1st Place Award in the Senior Division for his “Tech Savy Age” business idea.
“This year, we saw some really competitive entries. It is great to see some youth who have entered in past years really refine their ideas. It shows how events like this are inspiring growth in our next generation of entrepreneurs,” said Angela Koenen, Training and Asset Development Manager at Lakota Funds, who also helped organize the competition.
Other top winners of the competition included:
- Fallyn Cloud Eagle from Cheyenne-Eagle Butte with a 2nd Place Award in the Senior Division
- Thayer Schmidt from White River with a 3rd Place Award in the Senior Division
- Arvish Bhinder from Todd County with a 1st Place Award in the Junior Division
- Carlos Reyes from Bennett County with a 1st Place Award in the Sophomore Division
- Shantel Fire Cloud from White River with a 1st Place Award in the Freshman Division
Ideas presented in the competition encompassed a wide variety of business types, including technology, hair styling, meat processing, restaurants, child care, and pet grooming. All competitors were required to deliver a presentation to a panel of judges comprised of business development professionals. This year’s judges were: DeVaughn Pearson, real estate investor; Tyrell Pierce, Oglala Sioux Tribe Planning Department; Kate Rouillard, West River Small Business Administration; and Tosa Two Heart, First Peoples Fund. The entries were judged on several criteria, including market opportunity, management and operations, and financial projections.
This year’s LNI business plan competition was sponsored by Lakota Funds and the Oglala Sioux Tribe Office of Credit and Finance with funding support from Citi Community Development.