| Business Leader, Entrepreneur, Change Agent: Q&A with Clyde Stryker
“When you come together as a body, as a group, good things happen,” said Clyde Stryker, founder of the Oregon Native American Chamber of Commerce. Stryker has been a leader in small business development since starting his tech firm Spirit Communications. He became the first Native American to win the successful Business of the year award from the Small Business Administration.
He also was elected to the White House Conference on small business, where he represented the state of Oregon. His efforts in promoting Native American entrepreneurship also earned the state’s Governor’s Business Excellence Award. Stryker has been an active part of the Oregon Native American Business Network and Spirit Mountain Development Corporation and Casino.
In a Q&A with Colors of Influence, Stryker reflects on the fruits of partnerships and collaboration in representing the needs of minority-owned small businesses.
How are you involved with developing rural entrepreneurship in Oregon? Eagle Tech Systems is fast becoming the hub of collaboration among business owners in the Warm Springs area. The Warm Springs area is one of five target communities in the state for small business development and technical assistance. Eagle Tech offers support for small businesses through the Rural Development initiative’s CORE (Connecting Oregon for Rural Entrepreneurship) program. CORE seeks to create a positive climate for new entrepreneurs in rural areas of Oregon.
At Eagle Tech, we offered sessions on Indianpreneurship small business curriculum from ONABEN. The class “Made at the Kitchen Table” assists local businesses, artists and crafts people with marketing and techniques to sell their goods. A lot of Native American businesses are crafts people who create goods in their homes on their kitchen table. Many don’t have storefronts. The curriculum emphasizes skills and tools that would help them become better businesspeople.
Last summer, we hosted Saturday markets that helped promote businesses in Warm Springs. The market was a huge success, and we’re looking at doing it again this year.
We offer one-on-one consultation for small businesses, and business networking events to bring people together. Through coffee hours, we help connect business owners with other resources in the community. Topics of discussion have included obtaining with micro-credit and how to market products to statewide agencies.
What was your involvement with the Oregon Native American Chamber? I’m an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. In 1993, I decided to start my own business called Spirit Communications, which started as a home-based business. Part of the reason I started it was to become involved with a structured high-tech apprenticeship training program for Native American youth. Our goal was to enable young people to have decent-paying jobs after the apprenticeship.
I took great pride in my Native American heritage and the success of the business. The idea for a Native American Chamber of Commerce came about because at the time, I didn’t know of any other Native American owned businesses. I began wondering if I was the only one.
I connected with the Oregon Economic Community Development Department , and they offered their help. I struggled with getting the word out about the chamber, since we didn’t know who the businesses were. For the organizational meeting, ads ran in the paper, and flyers were sent out.
The first meeting was held at Willamette University. I was absolutely flabbergasted that 30 people showed up for the first meeting. Everyone expressed interest in forming a Native American chamber. We established what kind of organization we wanted to form. The initial focus was centered on kids and youth, so we can generate monies for scholarships. We wanted to give back to our culture and our community.
An attorney helped us write our articles of incorporation, free of charge. We set up the chamber to form chapters in other areas of the state.
The chamber attracted more and more people with mature businesses, like Janie Millican, ONACC’s current president. I started as the founder and executive director, and as time passed on, more people began to take more ownership of the chamber.
What are you most proud of in founding the chamber? I’m proud that we accomplished the original intent of the chamber is to identify and bring together the Native American business community.
When I moved away to retire in Central Oregon, Janie and others kept the chamber going and growing. They are truly committed to the chamber and have pride in ownership. I’m especially proud that the chamber was able to raise monies and give scholarship grants to many young people.
Why is collaboration important to businesses? Getting businesses together is important. Partnerships allow small business to pool their skills and resources to bid on bigger jobs. Strength in numbers and resources are key.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do? Working with great people, and watching the results of our efforts.
How does your cultural background affect the way that you lead? In my culture, there’s a great deal of emphasis on ethics and core values.
What is your personal philosophy? Do your job effectively, but learn to have fun. Don’t take things too doggone seriously. I always worked hard my whole life. Now and then, go fishing.
When I first started, I was very serious, always in a constant sprint to advance, move forward and achieve things. I learned to slow down as I got older. When you have a relaxed attitude, people can sense that. Things tend to flow better when you’re not pushing so hard, all the time.
What do you want your ultimate legacy to be? Before I started Spirit Communications, I remember thinking: if I were to die, what would I leave behind? The answer wasn’t very rewarding. All I did before was go to a job at a big corporation, worked from 8 to 5.
That thought started to change the direction of my life. I think that my ultimate legacy is creating partnerships and organizations that others can continue to build upon. Through collaboration, positive things continue to move forward.
Summer 2008 Colors of Influence ||
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