Mille Lacs Band announces grant to study possible business incubator program

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe says it has been awarded a $150,000 grant from the state of Minnesota to study entrepreneurism in its economy and the feasibility of a business incubator program.

The grant comes from the Minnesota Disaster Recovery Fund for Coroanvirus, a private fund administered through the Minnesota Council on Foundations, which is designed to support nonprofits, including tribal nations.

According to a release from the Mille Lacs Band, it determined it is “too reliant on specific industries that were unevenly disrupted by the pandemic.” The grant, they hope, will help the band build a more secure economy going forward.

Mille Lacs Band Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin said many Band members have “an entrepreneurial spirit” and just need more support and training in order to run their own businesses.

“Through diversification of our businesses and tribal economy, the Mille Lacs Band has made great progress toward achieving economic self-sufficiency through Band-owned businesses, but we also have to support Band Member entrepreneurs,” said Benjamin.

In the release, the band said a business incubator will help foster young businesses by providing them affordable space, resources and assistance while starting up.

Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures will serve as an agent to determine the feasibility of a business incubator. CEO Joe Nayquonabe, Jr. said it hopes to launch the incubator as a “tool to help tribal economy citizens, with a focus on American Indians, to pursue economic self-sufficiency in ways that are rewarding to them, as individuals, while strengthening the collective economic vitality of the region.”