Entrepreneurial Exchange Program. NAFOA & OWEESTA

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Hello Friends!

It’s been a while, so we have a lot to catch up on! Very recently, ONABEN spent some time in Moloka’i in coordination with our ANA grant. This trip was a special… but then again, aren’t they all? So, maybe I shall say this trip was extra special, as a group of Oklahoma entrepreneurs made the journey with us as part of an Entrepreneurial Exchange Program made possible by the Mvskoke Loan Fund. It was really an interesting visit! I love the way our project has paved the way for new partners to get involved and brought additional resources to the island. What a great way to promote peer learning!

The Oklahoma group was treated to tours of local farms, a traditional meal, took part in job shadowing, and were included in ONABEN’s ANA learning event, which is always an insightful process! The Hawaiians are the most amazing hosts! They made our Oklahoma friends feel right at home! Aloha was in the air everywhere the group went!

In less than two weeks, the Hawaiian entrepreneurs and our local partner, Jennifer Hawkins of the Kuha’o Business Center, will head to Oklahoma for the next phase of the exchange program, which includes participation in Trading at the River! I know our Muscogee (Creek) Nation family will make our Hawaiian cousins feel just as welcome! I hear our Hawaiian friends will be treated to some Oklahoma cooking, inclusive of what is traditional to their host tribe, as well as a little immersion into the Native culture that encompasses Oklahoma. This Cherokee girl/Oklahoma kid is some kind of excited! Do you have any idea how amazing it is to share a little bit of my home with the Hawaiian community that has become a home away from home for me? Wow, it is hard to put into words!

Additionally, over the last month, ONABEN completed a series of art camps as a part of a contractual services contract with our friends at the Mvskoke Loan Fund! In less than a month, we provided entrepreneurial development services to almost 50 students from four schools and one at-large event. It was crazy fun! I had the pleasure of helping provide training at four of the events and I was amazed at the artistic ability of the students, not to mention their love of the arts! Best part? These talented, young artists will showcase and sell their art at ONABEN’s Trading at the River Marketplace, on May 6, at the Riverwalk in Tulsa. Wado Mvskoke Loan Fund for taking an interest in our Native youth. And, Mvto for including ONABEN in your work!

Now just this week, I attended the Native American Finance Officer’s Association (NAFOA) Conference in Austin. It is always a treat to network with Indian Country’s leaders. I want to say “congratulations” to our friends at OWEESTA for winning NAFOA’s Education Program of the Year Award! ONABEN was the recipient of that award last year, so I know what being recognized by your peers can mean to a team and team leader. I am so proud to call OWEESTA a partner in the industry, and best of all, I am honored to call so many members of its team my personal friends. So proud of and for you all!

As you can imagine, our team is working furiously to produce a successful conference! Thanks to all of our sponsors for their continued support of Trading at the River! I want to send a special thanks to my friend, Will Lowe, and his team at the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. We needed some help in the last remaining weeks and wow, have they ever stepped up! Our partners and friends in Indian Country are the best! If you haven’t registered for the event, it is not too late! Just go to the conference website at www.tradingattheriver.com!

There is so much more I could write about the conference, but I will leave that for later… well, maybe one more detail. Do you like country music? Well, as you all know, I was born and raised in Oklahoma, so country music is a big part of me! At this year’s Marketplace, I am excited to share that Choctaw singer, Lainey Edwards, will be joining us at the Riverwalk to share some of her music with us! I met Lainey in Nashville a few months back and let me say, she is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside! And wow, talk about a velvety voice! Don’t miss out, join us at the Riverwalk on May 6 in Tulsa, Oklahoma!


“Talk” soon, V.

Michael Bridges

Michael Bridges

Michael is a proud U.S. Army Veteran and a member of the Cherokee Nation. With 10 years of service as an Infantryman, Michael implements the core values of integrity, honor, and selfless service into his leadership of the company. With over 20 years of experience, Michael began working with building websites and graphic design in 1998. A family-oriented man, Michael enjoys spending time with his wife Kristina and their three children. He is a proud and active member of Jenks Lodge #497 A.F. & A.M. and an advisor for the Order of DeMolay.