Passion to Reflection to Success to Celebration..All in a Day’s Work….

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Hello Friends! Are you as busy as me? I hope so!

How I love the work we do. As usual, Team ONABEN is engaged in a flurry of activity. Where to begin? Where else but with entrepreneurial development, which you know is a big deal in ONABEN’s world. We constantly advocate for the establishment and growth of Native-owned businesses, so we’re very excited that one of our own has taken the “plunge,” so to speak. ONABEN’s April Lemly recently opened her own flower business. Her flowers are beautiful and her arrangements are stunning! I am so proud of her and her accomplishment; what a testament to the work we do!


As if work could not get any better, it looks like the Authentically Cherokee Native Market will take place at the Asheville Art Museum! How befitting. There simply could not be a better place to showcase the talented artists ONABEN works with from the beautiful Smoky Mountains of Cherokee, North Carolina. If I’m not mistaken, I think the one and only French Broad Chocolate Lounge is right next door! Oh, my…be still my beating heart!

I’ve spent a good amount of time at home in recent weeks. There are times when that is the best place for all of us. The break in travel has given me the chance to look ahead at all of our projects, celebrate all that we did right in 2014, and determine what we can do better in 2015! The reflection has been enlightening, and — at times — emotional. I can honestly say that I have a true passion for the work we do and the people we serve.  Our team works hard to not just build relationships with our audience but to maintain and grow those relationships over time.

In one of the first workshops I conducted for ONABEN, I met Bryan and Denise Brown. Denise, a member of the Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians of California, had a dream of opening a childcare center. In turn, Bryan had a dream of making her wish come true. Having years of experience in the field, Denise knew exactly how her business would be structured. I can honestly say I have never had two people work harder on a business plan. They paid complete attention and visited with me during every break. I loved their passion. Nothing would stand in their way.

Access to capital was problematic, as it is in many Native communities. However, Bryan and Denise had a plan. The two invested the dollars they could as often as they could. They painted and cleaned and remodeled. They struggled. However, they persevered through everything. Best of all, they succeeded. They encouraged me as much as I encouraged them. In the beginning, I provided a lot of marketing tips and I did a lot of cheerleading.  And, once in awhile, I did a lot of nail biting. LOL! I saw how much their shared dream meant to them and wanted more than anything for them to make it.  During that first entrepreneurial workshop, the Browns adopted my children and me, and in turn we adopted them. We call them our California family. To this day, we do our best to see one another anytime I find myself in the Oroville or Sacramento area. Recently, I received a private Facebook message from them. It was big news. It went a little something like this:

Hey girl,

Thought you would appreciate some news. The business is doing great! We were approached by Head Start to partner up with them. We were one of two sites chosen for Oroville and one of eight for the whole Butte County. They received a $450,000.00 grant from a 1.5 billion grant allocated for low income subsidies. We may expand sooner than planned. We almost doubled our billing from 2013-2014. Hope your life is bringing great things to you. ~ The Cali group !

In addition to being adopted, that trip provided much needed clarity to my son regarding my work. He and my daughter accompanied me to conduct one of the trainings in Oroville. As I concluded the training and passed out certificates of completion to my participants, they passed out hugs to me…some with long embraces and some with tearful expressions of thanks. A participant reached for my son, who thought he was going to get a handshake. But instead, my big ‘ole, 6’4” boy was pulled into an embrace. And the trainee said to him, “Thank you for sharing your mom with us. We needed her.” Even now, as I write this, the tears well up in my eyes. My son turned, looked at me, and said, “I know what you do now, Mom. I never knew how to explain it. But, now I understand. I’m proud of you.” It is not always easy to leave one’s children, even for work. But in that moment we both found peace.

ONABEN Pic 1 copy

My heart is warm. And, that’s why I love this work. Stay tuned, friends. There is so much more to come.

“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.