The 2010 Inc. 5000: Top 10 American Indian Entrepreneurs
Ken Novotny, CEO and PresidentJim Williamson, CEOPaul Lombardi, CEO and PresidentLouie Wise III, PresidentRoyce Cornelison, CEO and PresidentJeff Styers, PresidentKyle von Bucholz, CEOVickie Wessel, PresidentBryan Billingsley, PresidentStephen Mills, CEO and President
2009 Revenue: $15.3 million
Three-Year Growth: 982.85%
Plenty of entrepreneurs toil over finding a business name that aptly describes what they do. For Novotny, however, it was all about name recognition. CSI, which stands for Consulting Services Inc., is not a forensics unit like the ones on TV, but Novotny, a member of Choctaw nation, says, "It's an easy conversation starter. There's CSI New York. There's CSI Miami. So we're CSI Oklahoma. Anything to differentiate yourself and make you stand out helps."
New West Technologies
Greenwood Village, CO
2009 Revenue: $29.1 million
Three-Year Growth: 687.32%
As a member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe of North Dakota, Williamson has been active in encouraging young people in the American Indian community to pursue careers in math and science. Through his technical and management services company, Williamson sponsors competitions for American Indian students. "Science and math have always been a big part of Native American culture. If you go back to the Mayan calendars, they were actually quite advanced astronomers," he says. "But right now only 1 percent of Indian students go to college, and only 1 percent of that 1 percent go into engineering."
2009 Revenue: $5.7 million
Three-Year Growth: 494.16%
Having positive workplace morale is important at TeraThink. So important, in fact, that Lombardi appointed a Chief Morale Officer to oversee company-wide games, happy-hour parties and charitable events. Though he has not yet coordinated any charity events with the Choctaw nation, of which he is a member, Lombardi says, "It's something we'd definitely be interested in exploring."
Climate Control Mechanical Services
Revenue: $3.8 million
Three-Year Growth: 334.29%
Just before his great-grandmother died at the age of 100, Wise began asking her about his American Indian roots. "As your grandparents are starting to get older, you start asking questions while they can remember what's what," he says. His great-grandfather had been a sharecropper, who was one-half Creek Indian, making Wise one-eighth Creek. He was amazed at what he discovered about his great-grandfather. "He cleared land of 80 acres with an ox and a plough," says Wise, who runs the mechanical services contracting company, Climate Control Mechanical Services. "The work level was just tremendously different."
P & C Construction
2009 Revenue: $19.8 million
Three-Year Growth: 176.91%
Born into Alabama's Echota Cherokee tribe, Cornelison has used the success of his business to work on assistance programs with Native American organizations, but the bulk of the construction company's corporate responsibility program is devoted to helping local schools and the environment. "We gave out warehouse space for architects and builders to bring scrap building material here and allowed schools to come in and get it for free," Cornelison says. "Kept it out of the landfill."
Bingham Farms, MI
2009 Revenue: $17.7 million
Three-Year Growth: 159.31%
Styers' father was raised on Ontario's Six Nations reservation. Styers, who is both Mohawk and Onadaga Clear Sky, often spent his summers there as a kid. He grew up to become a professional boxer, and continued boxing in the Marine Corps. After sustaining several injuries, however, Styers gave up the sport. He landed a job in sales then moved on to staffing, before opening his own staffing business. Now, Arrow offers one scholarship every year to students from the reservation.
Federated Information Technologies
2009 Revenue: $8.4 million
Three-Year Growth: 152.04%
Von Bucholz, who runs the government services company, Federated IT, with his brother Matthew, is committed to giving back to the Lower Sioux Reservation in Minnesota, where his father was raised. The company has recently added 20 members of the tribe to its staff and, von Bucholz says, "We're hoping to double that number."
2009 Revenue: $32.7 million
Three-Year Growth: 144.56%
Despite having Cherokee, Choctaw and Jicarilla Apache roots, Wessel was not raised to have a strong connection to her American Indian heritage. "When I was growing up, it wasn't cool to be Indian," she says. "My parents' goal was to fold us into a 'normal, white family' style of living." As an adult, however, Wessel says she has researched her family history a "tremendous amount" and has worked to make her own kids aware of their heritage.
2009 Revenue: $11 million
Three-Year Growth: 138.62%
Billingsley was raised just north of the Chicasaw reservation in Oklahoma. His parents founded HEBCO, a technical publications provider, when Billingsley was 10-years-old, and by the time he was in high school, he took on his first job in the company warehouse. Now that Billingsley is running the company, he hopes to get his own kids involved in the business some day. For now, though, his oldest, a 6-year-old boy, proudly wears the title: Director of New Drawings.
2009 Revenue: $2.6 million
Three-Year Growth: 129.6%
AQIWO is not an acronym. It's the Chumash word for "shooting star" or "light." Mills (right) says he was always proud of his American Indian heritage. "It gave me identity. I've got brown skin. I'm not blonde and blue–eyed," he says. "It's great to be associated with a culture so rich in tradition." Aside from giving his ancestry a nod when he was naming his information securities company, Mills is also active in mentoring American Indian youths and business owners who are interested in learning about government contracting.