2020 Highlights

For this inaugural year of the project, First Nations partnered with the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) to engage teams of Native youth to submit abbreviated business plans for their products or companies. From these applications, five semifinalist teams were selected from each age division (high school and college) to receive additional mentoring from Native business owners, entrepreneurs, and other professionals working in this space to further flesh out their business plans and design. Then, semifinalist teams participated in an on-stage competition held in conjunction with the Reservation Economic Summit (RES),  where a team of Native judges and investors decided which business venture they would most likely fund.

Competing at RES

Youth participants honed their projects through a full lineup of workshops.

RES is a multifaceted event from NCAIED featuring unparalleled access to respected tribal leaders, members of Congress, federal agency representatives, state and local elected officials and top CEOs, on a national platform. Here, on day three of the event, the Native Youth Business Plan Competition and one-day youth entrepreneur workshops were held.

Nine high school and college teams had five minutes to pitch their ideas and business plans outlining the value of their products and services, operational and technological viability, and capital requirements and financial forecasts, and more. From there, winning teams in each division were awarded cash prizes: $7,500 for first place, $5,000 for second place, and $2,500 for third place. See the full list of school participants below.

Participants presented their ideas before a panel of Native leaders and entrepreneurs. Photo credit: NCAIED

Nate Lee, Vice President of Native American Financial Services for BOK Financial who served as a mentor for the High School team Lumbee Nation Youth Enterprise, said that the value of the experience was enormous. “For the students it was a powerful and rewarding experience to compete on a national stage and also to interact with Native professionals in finance and economics.”

Kristall Vega (Cloverdale Pomo), who was on the College First Place Team for Acorn Energy Bites said she loved seeing all the Native youth present on projects they are passionate about to better their communities. “I believe there is a lot of value in experiences like this one because it gives a platform for Native youth to share their voices,” she said.

Learn more about participants’ experiences in First Nations’ newsletter story.

2020 Competition Highlights

These videos from NCAIED capture the importance and energy of the event.


Winning teams and participants

Participants take home connections, experience and confidence. Photo credit: NCAIED

College teams by product
First place: Acorn Energy Bites
Second place: Hanuthesnacks
Third place: Native Touch Event Planning

Mobilized Healthcare Units
BigPhoot Innovations

High school teams by product
First place: Latte for the Oyate
Second place: Pinon High School Store
Third place: Herbal Medicine Café

Lumbee Nation Youth Enterprise

Plans for future Native Youth Plan Competitions and other projects are underway. To learn more about First Nations’ programs for youth development, return to Investing in Native Youth.