Top 10 American Indian Entrepreneurs
Brad Scott, President and CEOJim S. Williamson, CEONoah Leask, President and CEOKen Novotny, President and CEOPaul Lombardi, President and CEOLouie Wise, III, PresidentBrandon Clark, President and CEOStephen Mills, President and CEOJanice Guy, PresidentJeff Styers, President
2010 Revenue: $7.17 million
Three-Year Growth: 2,275%
When Brad Scott (pictured seventh from the left) decided to start his own IT solutions company, he felt very strongly that the name serve his company's goals, but also honor his heritage. Scott, of both Chickasaw and Scottish descent, decided upon the name "Cetan," based on Chetan 'the Hawk' from Native American mythology, the great messenger and observer. "It echoes the guiding principles of the company: speed, dedication, and strong vision," says Scott. "I am a product of my family’s history and my company, Cetan Corp, is my way of paying tribute to my family and my heritage."
New West Technologies
Greenwood Village, Colo.
2010 Revenue: $48.51 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,297%
New West Technologies, which provides various energy and IT solutions and services for local, state, and federal agencies, was originally Jim Williamson's (pictured second from the right, sitting down) way of serving his own Native American community, the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe of North Dakota. In fact, from 1996 to 2002, the vast majority of New West's clientele consisted of Native Americans. But now, Williamson prefers to keep his philanthropy private. "My support of Indian peoples is more anonymously through donations, primarily for educational scholarships and activities related to improving education achievement," he says.
Mount Pleasant, S.C.
2010 Revenue: $5.63 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,081%
"Ishpi," in the Anishinaabe or Chippewa language, means to move forward, or to persevere; CEO Noah Leask (pictured third from the right) does his best to instill this winning attitude into his employees, who are responsible for helping our Armed Forces dominate the information battlefield with IT and logistics support. "Nothing is impossible if you have the will to make it happen," he says. "If you really want something, you have to plan, act on your plan, and work hard to make it a reality."
2010 Revenue: $24.04 million
Three-Year Growth: 996%
A "proud member" of the Choctaw nation, Ken Novotny (pictured far left) was raised in the minuscule town of Pocasset, Okahoma. "The entire town was three blocks wide and four blocks long," he says. From journeying to Oklahoma State University to forming CSI, which provides network and IT support within the federal government, Novotny has held onto the lessons from living in such a tiny community. "In a small town business setting, you’re only as good as your name," he says. "I apply that and try to do the right thing 100 percent of the time."
2010 Revenue: $15.19
Three-Year Growth: 331%
Paul Lombardi (pictured standing fifth from the right) grew up learning the importance of hard work. His mother, aunts, uncles, and grandparents all lived in an extremely impoverished packing district in Oklahoma, populated by many other members of his Choctaw tribe. "The lessons [my mother] learned were imposed on me and provided me with an ethic of diligence and hard work," Lombardi says. He espouses these same principles at TeraThink, his IT management consulting firm. "This culmination of ethics and diligence have enabled us to effectively serve our customers."
Climate Control Mechanical Services
2010 Revenue: $6.3 million
Three-Year Growth: 318%
Despite his minority status—and also having a hearing disability—Louie Wise, III (pictured right), refuses to make excuses. "Those things are part of who I am but they have never been used to gain access, apply for any personal benefits or limited me," he says. A descendant of the Creek Indian tribe, Wise achieved his position at Climate Control Mechanical Services by taking full responsibility of his actions, a virtue he tries to imbue in his employees. "Planning, processes, and performance enable someone to be successful. Heritage is something that should be understood, respected, and conveyed to your children, but never exploited."
2010 Revenue: $6.11 million
Three-Year Growth: 314%
Brandon Clark, a descendant of the Choctaw tribe, gets most of his business savvy from his parents, who have spent the last 35 years owning and operating Oklahoma's largest weekly newspaper, The Friday Newspaper. Clark's parents constantly took responsibility for whatever the newspaper published, so when Clark launched his company RFIP, which designs and constructs outdoor wireless systems for utility and energy markets, Clark decided he would trust his employees to take responsibility for their business decisions. "We've got such talented people, and they understand the problems we're facing," he says. "As a result, the company as a whole is very nimble in how we adapt to the different markets and changes in the economy."
2010 Revenue: $3.93 million
Three-Year Growth: 190%
Stephen Mills takes is pride in his Chumash Indian heritage, and his company AQIWO, which provides programs and IT services to government agencies—is a reflection of that. From the name itself—AQIWO means "light" in Chumash—to Mills' outside endeavors, like visiting Indian reservations and trade shows to teach interested youth about government contracting, AQIWO has fully embraced the identity of its leader. "I am very proud of my heritage and give back in the way of mentoring other Native American entrepreneurs," he says. "I serve as an example and am always happy to speak with those interested in doing it themselves."
2010 Revenue: $33.79 million
Three-Year Growth: 150%
Janice Guy (pictured on the far left) regrets the distance between her work in Massachusetts and her beloved home of Hawaii, but she is used to the separation. Guy's father was a Marine, so growing up, Guy spent much of her childhood moving within the continental United States. During this time, her mother made every effort to ensure her daughter understood her Hawaiian heritage. She later followed in her father's footsteps, joining the Marines after college. "The discipline from my military background, coupled with my strong ohana ["family spirit," in Hawaiian] are deeply ingrained in the values of P3I."
Bingham Farms, Mich.
2010 Revenue: $21.84 million
Three-Year Growth: 94%
Arrow Strategies CEO Jeff Styers (sitting, pictured third from the right), who is 50 percent Mohawk and Onondaga Clear Sky Indian, started boxing at 13 years old after being inspired by the movie Rocky. "I loved the mono a mono aspect of it, that you can draw and control your own destiny," he says. Styers became a celebrated amateur boxer in his hometown of Wayne, Michigan, right outside of Detroit; he later joined the Marines Corp and made the All-Marine boxing team. He was honorably discharged in 1986 and went pro two years later, finishing his boxing career in 1994 with a perfect record of 11-0. With 113 career fights under his belt, Styers is one company executive you definitely want in your corner.