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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 31, 2003 - Issue 88


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Successful Entrepreneur Attributes Success to Small Business Owners

by Jo Dee Black Great Falls Tribune Staff Writer

Thelma StiffarmAttorney Thelma Stiffarm says she has small businesses to thank for helping her build an impressive resume.

Growing up in Box Elder, Stiffarm, a member of the Gros Ventre Tribe, knew her father's teaching salary wouldn't cover college tuition costs.

So after high school, she enrolled in Margaret Hood Beauty School in Great Falls, then paid her way through college while working at beauty shops.

"Each one was a small business owned by a woman," Stiffarm recalled. "They never gave up; they just figured out ways to make their businesses work."

Four decades later, Stiffarm is poised to offer help to similar small businesses. She was recently appointed assistant administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Native American Affairs.

Her new post in Washington, D.C., involves boosting small business opportunities for Native Americans through SBA programs

"The SBA already has good programs in place," Stiffarm said. "But we need to make Indian people aware of those program and make them easier to access."

She plans to engage tribal colleges in that effort.

"We can adapt any training materials we already have to provide the assistance and training people need," Stiffarm said.

She'll also be engaging the first-hand knowledge of tribal leaders.

"We are very fortunate to have Thelma Stiffarm on our team as an advocate for Native Americans across the country," SBA Administrator Hector Barreto wrote in a news release announcing her appointment. "With her long history of dedication to the interests of the Native American community, I know she will bring a strong sense of purpose to the job."

She brings not only purpose, but plenty of practical knowledge, too.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

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