fbpx
facebook app symbol  twitter  linkedin  instagram 1
 

MILWAUKEE—On Tuesday, the Indigenous Business Group (IBG) launched its inaugural conference to highlight Native businesses in the region at the Potawatomi Casino & Hotel in Milwaukee.

The three-day conference, coined as Indigenous Biz Con, brings together nearly 300 business owners, administrators, and Tribal leaders from the state of Wisconsin to identify ways to collaborate and grow Indigenous businesses beyond Indian gaming.

Want to learn more about the Tribal economy? Get the free Tribal Business News weekly newsletter today.

“Our goals for this conference are to build a network of professionals to break down barriers and build a community that supports Indigenous businesses,” IBG Cofounder Zoar Fulwilder said during Tuesday’s general session.

The conference started as an idea among young business professionals attending a social mixer during the State of theTribes Address earlier this year in Madison. With success at the mixer, a conversation continued among Rob Pero (Bad River Ojibwe), Collin Price (Ho-Chunk Nation), and Zoar Fulwilder (Salt River Pima) to create a Tribal business professional group to host similar events in the future.

The trio founded IBG in July 2022 as a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization that works similarly to a chamber of commerce, with a focus on improving business conditions for Indigenous businesses in Wisconsin.

“Politics and bureaucracy aside, we’re going to shift the paradigm of elevating Native talent through IBG,” Pero told Native News Online. The inaugural Indigenous Biz Con event is designed to be a much-needed catalyst for Indigenous people, but is also inclusive to non-Indigenous supporters.  

The funds raised from the conference will continue to help IBG promote Indigenous-owned businesses and for future events. 

Wisconsin has another business entity that has been a champion for Wisconsin’s American Indian owned businesses—the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin (AICCW). One of its founders and longtime president, Craig Anderson, passed away in December 2020 and AICCW has been reorganizing since.

Anderson was recognized at the Indigenous Biz Con conference by several speakers who acknowledged his mentorship. A portion of the proceeds of the conference will be contributed to AICCW, according to the event’s organizers.

The conference included panels discussing energy development in Indian Country, developing Tribal healthcare infrastructure, and financing and lending opportunities for small businesses in Indian Country.  Other topics of discussion included the diversification of Tribal economies, the emerging cannabis industry and Indigneous women in business.

Sterlin Harjo, co-creator and showrunner of Hulu’s “Reservation Dogs” was scheduled as the conference’s keynote speaker, but canceled because he was diagnosed with Covid-19. He delivered a message to the conference attendees via a video.

The conference also hosted a gala awards show recognizing outstanding businesses throughout the region.

Red Cliff Fish Company was recognized as “Outstanding Tribally-Owned Business of the Year” and Greywolf Partners, Inc. was recognized as “Outstanding Business of the Year” by the IBG. The gala also featured a fashion show highlighting Indigenous fashion designers Coral Benton and Josef Cornelius as well as Canadian Indigenous clothing company Ginew

“Next year, our goal is to form our message on what Tribal Nations need,” Fulwider said during Tuesday’s gala.

More Stories Like This

Native News Weekly (May 19, 2024): D.C. Briefs
Native Artist and Former Cultural Advisor to the Chicago Blackhawks Sues Team for Sexual Harassment, Fraud
First Lady Jill Biden 'Shows Up' in Indian Country
National Indian Gaming Commission Announces Sharon Avery as Acting Chair
The Jicarilla Apache Nation Mourns the Passing of President Edward Velarde

These stories must be heard.

This May, we are highlighting our coverage of Indian boarding schools and their generational impact on Native families and Native communities. Giving survivors of boarding schools and their descendants the opportunity to share their stories is an important step toward healing — not just because they are speaking, but because they are being heard. Their stories must be heard. Help our efforts to make sure Native stories and Native voices are heard in 2024. Please consider a recurring donation to help fund our ongoing coverage of Indian boarding schools. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous-centered journalism. Thank you.

About The Author
Author: Darren ThompsonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a staff reporter for Native News Online who is based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty, and Indigenous issues for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in international conversation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Law Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.