About this idea
My Master's degree studies in Social Innovation at Grand Valley State University is underway, and this business idea is my final project. About 10 years ago, I discovered that although I was raised as a white upper-Middle Class woman, my grandfather's grandfather is actually of Native descent. He fled to Grand Rapids (presumably from boarding school) and stated that he was a French-Canadian Fur Trader. Being invited into Indigenous Knowledge Systems and traditions through my involvement in the Mno'Chegewin Native American Student Association at GVSU has increasingly opened my eyes to the disparity between existing economic systems for small business start-ups in middle to upper class versus the lower class in America. My husband and I were able to overcome poor credit history (residual from medical challenges) and lack of start up capital because we were approached by a micro-investor who provided the seed money to launch us.
We have also benefitted from an impromptu collective of other small business owners who have exchanged the use of their equipment for jobs done, discounted services, and collaboration for internet service. We have a small community of entrepreneurs surrounding us, and we wish to eventually provide the same for other entrepreneurs. We additionally want to offer internships and apprenticeships specifically to indigenous and minority youth so that the art of upholstery and craftsmanship in the old world traditions doesn't stop with our generation. In the next few months, I am eager to begin a sustained dialogue initiative among Native American Entrepreneurs and other Minority Entrepreneurs so that we can share our knowledge and begin investing into those around us.
Indigenous wisdom states that before making any decisions, the impact on the next 7 Generations must first be weighed. Black Rose Upholstery LLC was launched as a way for us to use the manure that life threw our way as fertilizer for roses to bloom. ("It takes 'manure' to grow roses" quote from Tara Heavy in "Winter Bloom"). I want to empower Indigenous and Minority youth in the same way that I was empowered...through people willing to invest time, dialogue, coaching, and networking on my behalf. I started sewing through Kent County 4-H at age 11, and through that developed a community that encouraged me to continue sewing through college and into adulthood. Both of my grandmother's mothers taught them, and they each instilled in me my love of sewing. My aunt was a professional seamstress, who altered my wedding dress so that it fit me better than any custom tailored garment I have ever worn. I don't want the neighborhood our shop is in to only know us as a storefront, I want to invite them into our community as we learn to belong in theirs. I want to see us creating a collective that will create and empower other collectives so that together, we can apply Indigenous Knowledge Systems and community concepts to form a micro-business and small business collective which empowers and creates other collectives for generations to come. I want to see our neighborhoods become communities where all students and people are provided opportunities to thrive, and help others to thrive as well. Lastly, upholstery and reupholstery provides an impact on the landfills, as we reuse old furniture, boat seats, automotive seats, medical stools and tables, and restaurant booths. Our main fabric distributors minimize their carbon footprint as well.
What I'll do with $5,000
With $5,000, I would purchase a second industrial sewing machine and build a second sewing table, as well as expand our rental space so that we can grow the business. Expansion will allow us to have separate work stations and a streamlined work flow. These two investments will also allow me to add two young women onto payroll, so that I can train them. After they are fully trained, they will then be able to further train other employees in the future. This will officially launch our internship and apprenticeship part of the business.