Nez Perce Business Incubator Feasibility Study

Points Consulting, in partnership with Nimiipuu Community Development Fund, are pleased to present the Nez Perce Tribe with this Nimiipuu Business Incubator Feasibility Report. We are also grateful to thank the Nez Perce Tribe and communitymembers for providing feedback, interviews, and conversations concerning this project with open and honest responses. The project team is grateful for the roughly 30 to 40 people who came to the in person town hall, the 16 of those who attended the virtual town hall, and all 187 who partook in the paper and online survey.

This report consummates seven months of thorough socioeconomic research, evaluation, best practices, and community engagement on behalf of Points Consulting’s project team. During this process, the projects Steering Committee supplied valuable guidance, information, and coordination with community and tribal members.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners have always required resources, knowledge, and access to markets. In metropolitan areas these essentials tend to be easier to come by but in rural areas ingredients such as office space, broadband internet, and capital are limited, let alone the equally important relational aspects of coaching, mentorship and community support. Native American communities face an additional hurdle, in that the private-enterprise system is usually weak and connections with markets outside the Reservation are under-developed.

The resiliency of local communities and economies was put to the test during the COVID-19 pandemic, as lockdowns created a variety of hardships for small and locally operated businesses. One positive outcome from this was that the Nimiipuu Fund discovered just how many entrepreneurs existed within the Nez Perce Tribal community. The hardship created an opportunity to build bridges with and between these small business owners, many of whom were operating fairly isolated “micro-businesses” out of their own homes.

Springing from this revelation was the Nimiipuu Fund’s concept of a Business Incubator, which could serve as the home for economic growth within the tribal community. The Incubator concept could provide an array of benefits including office space, retail space, artists co-op/gallery space, conference rooms, co-working space, business coaching, affordable training programs, and space for community and cultural events. Beyond all this, the Incubator would also tighten social and economic bonds leading to stronger cultural preservation among tribal members.

Based on this Feasibility Study, Points Consulting recommends that the Nimiipuu Fund seek to develop the Business Incubator. To be successful, the Incubator will require persistent and patient leadership on behalf of Nimiipuu Fund and other leaders within the Nez Perce community.Nimiipuu Fund must raise the necessary funds to support the development of the Incubator building and programming. At the same time, leadership must guide those with commercial interests to see themselves as entrepreneurs, and to invest the time and energy required to grow their businesses.