Skip to main content

Inc. Ranks Top 10 American Indian Entrepreneurs

  • Author:
  • Updated:

Inc. recently spotlighted its list of the Top 10 American Indian Entrepreneurs for 2010, included in the magazine’s Inc. 500|5000, an annual ranking of the “fastest-growing privately held companies in the United States,” rated according to percentage revenue growth from 2006 through 2009. Inc. publishes the top 500 revenue-growing businesses from its applicant base each year in its September issue, which included two American Indian entrepreneurs last year.

Read the business magazine’s requirements for making the 5000 cut, like generating a minimum revenue of $2 million in 2009, being based in the United States, privately held, for profit, and independent as of December 31, 2009.

Inc. launched its 5000 list in 2007—an online expansion of its Inc. 500, which slated in 1982.

The top 10 American Indian-run companies include a range of industries from human resources, to construction, to government services—“the fastest-growing industry sector by number of firms on the list,” according to Inc. 5000 project manager Jim Melloan.

10. Stephen Mills, CEO and President of AQIWO

The Arlington, Virginia-based AQIWO ranked No. 2047 on the Inc. 5000--its second consecutive year to make the list of top-performing U.S. firms, according to AQIWO's news releases. The managed information services firm made $2.6 million in 2009, a nearly 130 percent revenue increase from 2006, according to Inc. AQIWO, which Inc. points out means "shooting star" or "light" in Chumash, supports federal clients such as the IRS and the Department of Interior.

Mills has accepted his fair share of awards in the past year, including outstanding performance by a small business from the Department of Treasury in April 2010 for AQIWO, and the entrepreneur received a 2010 Minority Business Leader Award from the Washington Business Journal, according to the the Journal, which ranks the top 25 minority business leaders annually in the Washington region.

9. Bryan Billingsley, President, HEBCO

Bryan Billingsley assumed the helm as president of his parents' Oklahoma City-based company HEBCO, which is still owned by his mother Ruth Billingsley, qualifying the company as a Native American female-owned small disadvantaged business, according to its company profile. HEBCO provides engineering and technical services to the Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Defense, Inc. reported. At No. 1941 on the Inc. 5000, the company generated $11 million in 2009, growing by 138.62 percent since 2006.

The company also runs major in offices in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Springdale, Arkansas, in addition to "maintaining a presence" in Ogden, Utah; Uniontown, Pennsylvania; and Charlotte, North Carolina, states its Web site.

The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal also recognized Billingsley, then 36, as a 2010 Forty Under 40 honoree.

8. Vickie Wessel, President, Spirit Electronics

Inc. reports that Wessel--of Cherokee, Choctaw and Jicarila Apache descent--rekindled her connection to her Indian roots in adulthood. The Phoenix, Arizona-based Spirit Electronics, in operation since 1979, hit No. 1880 on the Inc. 5000 with a 2009 revenue of $32.7 million, representing a nearly 145 percent growth since 2006.

7. Kyle von Bucholz, CEO, Federated Information Technologies

The D.C.-based Federated Information Technologies came in No. 1806 on the Inc. 5000. The 45-person professional services company grossed $8.4 million in 2009 for a 152 percent three-year growth. Federated IT provides analytic and operational services, reports Inc. According to the company Web site, Von Bucholz served as a U.S. Army Special Operations Communications Officer, and claims more than 23 years of experience in Defense and Intelligence Community installing, operating, and maintaining communications and computer networks.

Von Bucholz runs Federated IT with his brother Matthew. The pair recently added 20 Lower Sioux tribal members to its staff, Inc. reported. "We're hoping to double that number," Von Bucholz told Inc.

6. Jeff Styers, President, Arrow Strategies

The Bingham Farms, Michigan-headquartered Arrow Strategies, at No. 1737, grew more than 159 percent in three years to $17.7 million annual revenue in 2009. The staffing agency recently added an engineering division to its IT, accounting and finance industries contracting services. The company has additional offices in Chicago, Illinois; Hartford, Connecticut; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Huntington Beach, California.

Styers, Mohawk/Onondaga Clear Sky and a former professional boxer, spent summers on the Six Nations of the Grand River reservation near Ontario, where his father grew up, reported Inc. Arrow provides one scholarship to a student on the reservation each year.

5. Royce Cornelison, CEO and President, P&C Construction

No. 1621 on the Inc. 5000 for 2010, P&C Construction was founded in 1993. The Portland area general contracting firm raked in $19.8 million in 2009, representing a nearly 177 percent three-year growth.

While he resides in Oregon, Cornelison was born into the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama, reported Inc.

4. Louie Wise III, President, Climate Control Mechanical Services

Coming in at No. 896 on the Inc. 5000, the Ocala, Florida-based construction company Climate Control Mechanical Services, founded in 2001, more than tripled its 2006 revenue of $875,000 to $3.8 million in 2009. Wise, who is one-eighth Creek Indian, reconnected with his Indian roots before his 100-year-old great-grandmother, who was one-half Creek, passed away, reported Inc.

3. Paul Lombardi, CEO and President, TeraThink

The Reston, Virginia-based TeraThink Corporation multiplied its 2005 revenue nearly five times, grossing $5.7 million in 2009. Ranked No. 608 on the Inc. 5000, the 2002-founded IT services and management consulting company for federal entities employs a 50-person think tank, including a "Chief Morale Officer" to organize company-wide games, happy hour and charity events, Lombardi told Inc.

TeraThink also ranked the 43rd fastest-growing small business government contractor in the D.C. Metro area in the Washington Technology Fast 50 in 2010, its second year to earn the award. In 2009, the Washington Technology ranked TeraThink at No. 24, measured by compound annual growth rate over the previous four years.

2. Jim Williamson, CEO, New West Technologies

The industry leader for integrated payments, Greenwood Village, Colorado-based New West Technologies upgraded from its previous spot at No. 1578 in 2009, securing the No. 437 rank in the 2010 Inc. 500. The 1996-founded government services comany's $2.9 million 2009 revenue represents a 687 percent growth in three years.

Williamson is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota, and encourages Native American youth to excel in math and science--important subjects in Native American culture, he told Inc. "If you go back to the Mayan calendars, they were actually quite advanced astronomers," Williamson told Inc.

1. Ken Novotny, CEO and President, CSI Oklahoma

Ken Novotny promoted the company acronym CSI for recognition, reported Inc. It stands for Consulting Services Inc., a government services company founded in Oklahoma City in 2002. Ranked No. 306 on the Inc. 500, Novotny tops Inc.'s list of American Indian entrepreneurs in 2010. His business grew by nearly 983 percent in three years to $15.3 million in 2009, Inc. reports.