Our Vision

Small risks to transform communities.

 
 

Change Labs will foster the creation of successful Native American small businesses that provide a social benefit to tribal communities.

Tribal America has no deficit of challenges – from the lack of infrastructure, to rampant and persistent poverty, to under-performing public education. Despite our sovereignty, we remain dependent on outside forces to address these problems by providing needed jobs, sustaining our governance, and thereby driving our economies. However, by enabling and supporting Native small business operating within our communities, we can begin to make steps towards economic self-sustainability.

To achieve this, we must invest in the necessary elements of the ecosystem required to support and sustain entrepreneurial activity. 

 

Change Labs was designed to create a safe place for entrepreneurs and and community members to explore and develop their ideas. We provide the infrastructure, expertise, and support structures for the first three years of the entrepreneurial journey. Many homes on the reservation don't have physical addresses, making it difficult to apply for a Tax Identification Number. The majority of communities on the reservation do not have internet access. By providing these things, as well as desk space, software access,  classes in website design, financial planning, leadership development, and so on, Change Labs will take measurable steps towards increasing the number of Native-owned small businesses operating in Native communities.

How we got here

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Heather Fleming, Jessica Stago and Natasha Hale began working collaboratively in 2013 to launch a series of prototype initiatives addressing what we believed to be the biggest gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem on the Navajo Nation. Our evaluation partner, Causal Design, studied each initiative to help us understand what is effective and worth doing. What we are proposing for the future is based on the first four years of foundational iteration and evaluation of the following:

 
 
We launched  Build Navajo  in 2016 as a digital tool to help entrepreneurs register their business on the Navajo Nation.

We launched Build Navajo in 2016 as a digital tool to help entrepreneurs register their business on the Navajo Nation.

We hosted the inaugural  Change Labs  event in Shiprock, NM in 2014. The event is designed to promote social entrepreneurship, create opportunities for hands-on learning, and build peer and mentorship networks.

We hosted the inaugural Change Labs event in Shiprock, NM in 2014. The event is designed to promote social entrepreneurship, create opportunities for hands-on learning, and build peer and mentorship networks.

In response to the demand for more Change Labs events, we launched a quarterly Popup series in 2016 to make workshops and events more accessible around the Navajo Nation. We've hosted Popups in White Cone, Tuba City, Shiprock, and Twin Arrows.

In response to the demand for more Change Labs events, we launched a quarterly Popup series in 2016 to make workshops and events more accessible around the Navajo Nation. We've hosted Popups in White Cone, Tuba City, Shiprock, and Twin Arrows.

We launched the  Innovation Challenge  in 2016 to award and incentivize social entrepreneurship. After conducting a search for promising Navajo entrepreneurs, a panel of judges selected three winners to receive $5000 in seed funding and one year of business incubation support based on 5-min, Shark tank-style pitches.

We launched the Innovation Challenge in 2016 to award and incentivize social entrepreneurship. After conducting a search for promising Navajo entrepreneurs, a panel of judges selected three winners to receive $5000 in seed funding and one year of business incubation support based on 5-min, Shark tank-style pitches.

We are currently developing a digital platform to connect Native American entrepreneurs with a broader market of customers. The platform will locate Navajo-owned businesses, provide contact info, and streamline communication between prospective customers and Navajo entrepreneurs.

We are currently developing a digital platform to connect Native American entrepreneurs with a broader market of customers. The platform will locate Navajo-owned businesses, provide contact info, and streamline communication between prospective customers and Navajo entrepreneurs.