RAPID CITY, S.D. - Who ever said, "If you build it they will come," didn't
have a new business in Indian country owned by an American Indian in mind.
It's not easy, and at times for Daryl and Sharon No Heart, owners of
Ancestors Printing, it seemed like anyone who could use their business was
Two years into the business they are still looking for customers that can
help them establish a base account list; businesses like casinos, schools,
tribal organizations and governments. What little business they have done
for those groups, they have had difficulty collecting payment, Daryl No
The business name may have presented problems in the beginning, No Heart
said. The name is in Lakota - Wico Hankake or Ancestors. The No Hearts were
told by other business owners that a name in Lakota may not bring in
business. It is now mostly referred to as Ancestors Printing.
An advantage the No Hearts have with their business is that Daryl is a
nationally-acclaimed artist and illustrator. He can create original work
for any client, and correct or doctor up less than adequate images.
His artistic talent is what got the two started in the printing business.
One of Daryl's most famous works, "Thank you Grandfather," along with two
other works cost $12,000 for him to have 500 prints plus 50 artist copies
printed at a Twin Cities printer.
"Daryl had trouble with the printer. They were shipping everything to
Canada and they were charging money to make changes, plus we didn't realize
the picture was going to be so big, it was just huge," Sharon said.
"... A different printer got the size right and the colors were vibrant
like the real pictures. We had to borrow money from the tribe to have the
prints made. And we were still not satisfied.
"We visited art galleries. 'Thank You Grandfather' sold for $130 a print.
But we walked into a gallery in Sioux Falls and saw his print, framed and
matted with a value of $595. Daryl said something was wrong with this
picture. It really didn't set well. So that's when we started looking
around for printers," Sharon said.
They bought a printer and reproduced fine art, mostly Daryl's work, for
"We got one and started experimenting. We were reproducing the colors and
everything was perfect for us," Sharon said. Daryl then learned to matte
and frame fine art and finished off his own work. Then other artists heard
about their operation while they lived in the Twin Cities.
Now two artists who live in the Black Hills area, Jim Yellowhawk and Don
Montileaux use Ancestors to print much of their fine artwork.
Huge banners and posters are possible at Ancestors. They invested $240,000
in equipment and they have the only 54-inch laminating machine in the area.
Sharon is the technical expert, the graphic artist. She can work the
printing machines like a wizard and print outdoor billboard-sized images on
the heaviest of vinyl or fine art on fragile rice paper, or anything in
The technology they brought with them didn't exist in the city until they
arrived and they happen to be the only Indian owned high tech printing
business in the country.
Sharon said their naivete was visible when they arrived. Local printers
came to visit to see what equipment the two had and soon other printers
were using similar equipment.
Ancestors Printing, according to the No Hearts, is more than a print shop.
Daryl's artistic vision takes a prominent role in determining what the
final product, whether a table tent or a fine art print, will look like.
Even with all the equipment and quality artwork, putting the business on
the road to real success was not easy. The No Hearts are struggling, but
"It's really hard. We spent a lot of money on advertising when we opened.
And with every new customer we ask how they heard about us, 98 percent said
word of mouth. We have a loyal customer base but they don't need printing
all the time," Daryl said.
Sharon has experience with casinos. She worked for Prairie Knights Casino,
owned by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and for Mystic Lake Casino in
Minnesota, owned by the Mdewakanton Dakota of Prior Lake. She worked in
administration and management positions at both locations.
The Oglala Sioux Tribe and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe are the only tribes
that use Ancestors Printing. And with Internet technology images can be
transmitted back and forth to clients no matter where they are, the No
What should people look for when they start planning to open a business?
"Start out small. Get to know the market and customer base, and then
expand. We have all this equipment, but people don't like change, we are
new in area and there are a lot of printing companies around here," Sharon
"I think when starting the company we went through 17 employees in two
short years here. Getting loyal employees and training is difficult. What
we have gone through we would have done differently and started with just
Ancestors Printing, Inc. can be contacted by e-mail at
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (605) 718-3910.