“The Future is Indigenous Women.”

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  • Network Leaders

Jan 3, 2020 Common Future

When Vanessa Roanhorse launched her company, Roanhorse Consulting, she soon realized that there were few resources dedicated to supporting Native women, let alone any provided by women who looked like her. 

In 2017, the Women’s Economic Forum reached out to Vanessa for help organizing a panel. She took the opportunity to bring together Native women business leaders from across New Mexico to highlight the incredible work led by Native women; yet, no one at the forum showed up. In that moment, the panelists realized, “why are we trying to be seen when we see each other? This was our aha moment. We realized we had each other.”

The Native Women’s Business Summit was born when Vanessa and seven co-founders began designing an event for their community, recognizing that Native women are often the backbone of their families and communities—they are empowering each other to be leaders, they are weaving resources and their communities together and they are emerging as entrepreneurs. A few days before their first summit in April 2018, they sold out. 200 Indigenous women from over 37 tribes gathered from across the country, illustrating a desire for more Native-led opportunities, thus Native Women Lead was formed. Native Women Lead’s mission is to revolutionize systems and inspire innovation by investing in Native Women in business. Native Women Lead is working across the North American continent, engaging over 500 Native and Indigenous women, with expectations to reach over 1,000 by the end of 2020. “We are wholly overlooked and untapped market, we do believe the Future is Indigenous Womxn.”

When we spoke with Vanessa, she noted a critical need for connection and support: “Native women are everywhere, but they are often isolated, both within their tribal communities and outside them, where their experiences can be complicated to explain. Most Native women are solo-preneurs and need equitable resources to support growth or expand their businesses. Cultural relevancy matters, especially for business owners working specifically in tribal communities. Non-Native folks don’t always understand the resources and opportunities in this setting.” 

Going forward, Native Women Lead will continue the annual Native Women’s Business Summit. They envision an online virtual community to help women hire, partner with, mentor and employ one another, as well as a virtual platform to collect stories demonstrating ways to build healthy, thriving businesses that put community first. “Native women are redefining what wealth means in terms of family and community.”

When it comes to redefinition, Vanessa’s company, Roanhorse Consulting, is leading the way in helping unconventional entrepreneurs identify alternative financing options. They are asking: What does it mean to make thoughtful investments that empower business leaders to lead qualified, dignified lives? They explore financing options such as crowdfunding or relationship-based lending to help fast-scaling companies find the right investment to grow businesses that keep wealth in their family and community.

Common Future first connected with Vanessa at our Shift Capital Summit, where she said she found a community of people interested in meaningful, affordable capital. The Summit resulted in a new consulting circle with other like-minded consultants and advisors working around on similar challenges to community wealth-building nationwide.

When asked about the future, Vanessa said “Roanhorse Consulting and Native Women Lead intend to show that women are powerful, women are leaders, and women should be co-leading the future.” You can follow their work and receive updates on their next Summit on their website.


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