MILWAUKIE - When the owners of Indian Country Interior Solutions entered the field of decorating Native-owned resort properties in 2005, the two were already seasoned entrepreneurs ready for a new challenge.
After all, they had already been in business together since 1994 as the joint owners of GEO & JEM Inc. The company specializes in luxury office and hospitality furnishings.
ICIS is woman- and minority-owned. President Georgia O' Mary is of Japanese descent, and vice president Janie Millican is an enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma.
Both women speak passionately about their goals to provide the best service possible to their Native clients. The creation of ICIS has resulted in a distinct separation needed for the success of both enterprises.
So far, their passion and dedication has paid off.
In April, the duo and their staff of 13 dedicated employees recently completed the interior design project for the Nez Pearce Tribe's Clearwater River Casino & Resort in Lewiston, Idaho. ''I especially love working on the hotels and casino, and this one we worked on from the ground up,'' Millican said.
Another noteworthy en-deavor includes the interior design of the 100-room hotel for the Wildhorse Resort & Casino in Pendleton, Ore., owned and operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. They are currently adding the finishing touches to Wildhorse's sports bar, buffet and fine dining area.
Attention to detail counts in the realm of interior design. ICIS provided its area of expertise to coordinate the furnishings and amenities for the Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino in Nice, Calif. Some of the amenities include ironing boards and hair dryers. Millican said that these seemingly mundane items must tie into the decor and space allotted for each room.
Currently, there are some projects in the negotiation stages, yet to be revealed until contracts are signed.
Both Millican and O'Mary attribute their success to sharing common values, communication, teamwork and finding solutions to challenges that are in the best interest of the customers and company.
''I think we complement each other,'' O'Mary said.
To help boost their clientele, Millican said they attend up to five trade shows each year. She credits the National Indian Gaming Association trade show and National Reservation Economic Summit & American Indian Business Trade Fair for garnering new accounts.
''A lot of the tribes are working out of trade shows; that helps our company, because existing and new customers know we're always going to be there,'' she said.
Even with the completion of several high-profile projects, Millican said, ''once a job is done, it's never really done,'' as tribes are constantly developing new projects or are in need of replacement items. Selecting reputable vendors keep the supply end running smoothly and ICIS' reputation intact. ''You have to make sure your supplies are top quality and the vendors come through for you,'' she said.
When seeking bids from vendors, ICIS usually open the first bids to Native-owned businesses, depending on the tasks or supplies necessary to complete the job.
As president of the Oregon Native American Chamber of Commerce and board member of the American Indian National Chamber of Commerce, Millican has a direct line to network with other businesses.
''We're really trying to get that network up and running on a national level,'' she said.
To keep their business running smoothly and top-notch, ICIS uses top-of-the-line computer-aided design programs, and the latest accounting software to keep up-to-date on expenditures and profits.
''It's important to know where you stand at any time,'' she said.
Millican and O'Mary's friendship dates back to 1978. They worked at a furniture dealership together for more than a decade before deciding to venture out on their own to form GEO & JEM. It was an inherent risk for the duo. Both had secure sales positions and several high-profile accounts.
''We both left good positions making very good money,'' O'Mary said. ''It was an emotional decision to leave the job.''
Both have put in countless long hours to maintain two successful enterprises. Millican credits her employees for being able to reduce those 15-hour workdays. Recently, for the first time in 14 years, she was able to take a one-week vacation.
The ICIS Web site is currently under construction. Meanwhile, ICIS contact information is available at www.geojem.com.