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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Incubator will help Native-owned companies grow

Jo Ann Kaufmann, left, president of Kaufmann and Associates, and Iris PrettyPaint, right, vice president for project management at KAI, stand at the front desk of KAI in Spokane Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. The two will oversee a $300,000 federal grant from the Minority Business Development Agency to create a business incubator, Northwest Native Ventures, for native-owned businesses from the three-state region. Kaufmann, PrettyPaint and others at KAI are natives. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Kauffman & Associates Inc. is launching a business incubator to help American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian entrepreneurs grow their companies.

Northwest Native Ventures is the name of the yearlong project, which is funded with a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency.

“Kauffman & Associates has been in business for 29 years, so we want to share some of our knowledge and reach out to our network to provide mentoring,” said Jo Ann Kauffman, the company’s founder and president. “I’ve not seen enough support – especially at the fledgling stages – for Indian entrepreneurs and tribal businesses.”

Northwest Native Ventures will work closely with Daniel Stewart at Gonzaga University, who is a professor and director of the Hogan Entrepreneurial Leadership Program.

Fifteen business owners – five each from Washington, Idaho and Oregon – will be chosen to attend a three-day boot camp in Spokane during March, said Iris PrettyPaint, the company’s vice president of project management.

Over the course of the year, Northwest Native Ventures will work with business owners on issues such as securing financing, defining their market and successfully scaling up a growing company. The 15 business owners who attended the boot camp will be paired with mentors.

Contracting with the federal government, a specialty of Kauffman & Associates, will also be an emphasis of Northwest Native Ventures.

PrettyPaint said the business incubator is attracting attention from beyond the Northwest. While the program is designed for Native entrepreneurs in the region, webinars and other online training will be available to business owners outside of the Northwest, she said.