Entrepreneurs offer solutions to unemployment in the Plains

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EAGLE BUTTE, S.D. - It's no secret that jobs are needed on reservations in the Great Plains, and individual entrepreneurs may be the keys to success in creating jobs in the region.

While many businesses on the Cheyenne River reservation are owned by non-residents, a growing number of business-savvy entrepreneurs are changing that, thanks to the help of Four Bands Community Fund.

Tanya Fiddler, executive director of Four Bands, said for every loan they make for a new or expanding business it creates 1.5 jobs.

''There are so many kids in the area, I wanted to give kids a chance to work,'' said Marlene Schaefer, owner of the Outrider Cafe in downtown Eagle Butte. When the small cafe became available in 1998 she bought it. Now, she has a loan from the Four Bands to expand the popular cafe.

''I started out washing dishes, then waiting tables. I am grateful for someone to give me a chance.'' She said she wants to help kids today.

The first Small Business Administration loan on the Cheyenne River Reservation came through the help of Four Bands and allowed D & D Plumbing and Heating to move into a building. Now, the business will open the only bait shop on the reservation in extra building space.

Gerald Davidson, owner of D & D, started his business out of his car after returning to the reservation, and has expanded from one employee to five.

Stephanie Davidson, Gerald's wife and D & D co-owner, said that to open a business on a reservation is three times harder than anywhere else.

''Gerald was one of the first people to go through CREATE [Cheyenne River Entrepreneurial Assistance Training and Education] at Four Bands,'' Davidson said.

CREATE is a program that teaches would-be and existing business owners to create and develop business plans.

''The training and advice from Four Bands was instrumental for his business. They show us what can be done, showing the community it can be done,'' she said. ''When they see this they get inspired.

''When we secured the SBA loan we had good people believe in us,'' she continued.

The LaPlante family on the Cheyenne River reservation has been exposed to entrepreneurship for years; in fact, three children have been involved in business since they were very young. Rebecca, 20, is in business with her two brothers, Tyson, 23, and Jared, 26. They started their business life operating a concession stand during the summer. Today, they own their own business: JTR Trips, an apparel and embroidery store.

The three took over an existing business, changed it to fit a younger clientele and, with the help of Four Bands, developed a business plan that lead to a loan from the fund. The Four Bands CREATE program helped them make contact with the right people to help with the business.

The business is not just a whim to create incomes and wealth for the young owners. It supplies a need for the community: work clothing and an urban style of clothing for young shoppers.

''A lot of people can't go out of town shopping,'' Rebecca said.

''We are not looking for big money; we are interested in keeping the business open,'' she continued.

When people work, they need a safe and quality environment for their children: and Noah's Ark Learning Center is available to meet that need. It, too, started with a loan from Four Bands. It is not a day care center, but rather a school that teaches the fundamentals of reading and the alphabet to preschool children.

Darla Shupick, owner and teacher at Noah's Ark, taught first grade for nine years and realized that many children didn't know their letters or the letter sounds.

She found an empty space and, with a loan from Four Bands, started the business.

''Four Bands was essential. They helped me create a business plan. We want to grow. I would like to be able to grow enough to charge a smaller fee and own the building,'' Shupick said.