Lakota Industries aims for the bull’s-eye

XENIA, Ohio – A Native American company is shooting to become a major player in the bow manufacturing business.

Lakota Industries has been manufacturing bows in Xenia, Ohio since 2003. But not all the work has been done in one location; plenty of outsourcing was needed to complete the bows. Lakota Industries’ CEO Dick Williamson is planning to change that.

This month he’s planning to move the company to South Dakota and team up with OctaFlex Environmental Systems. OctaFlex, will bring the machinery and expertise to the partnership while Lakota Industries will provide the engineering and design work.

“This is very exciting,” Williamson said. “I’ve been in archery all my life and I believe this is a first. There has never been a Native American owned and operated bow manufacturing company on a reserve anywhere in the United States.”

Since its inception, Lakota Industries has been responsible for engineering and designing bows, but it relied on other companies’ machinery to finish its products. Williamson believes combining forces with OctaFlex will be a perfect fit.

“They’re a well-established company out there,” he said. “And they have a skilled workforce that is a good blend of Native and non-Native workers.”

Williamson has had a special place in his heart for the Cheyenne River people since he first visited there in 2001. His grandmother grew up there and he was keen to connect with those from her community.

He was partly troubled by his initial visit because the community had an unemployment rate of about 80 percent. This move will establish Lakota Industries on the Cheyenne River First Nation, where the bows will be manufactured from start to finish.

He’s thrilled his company will soon be based on the reservation.

“This whole thing is about putting people to work,” Williamson said. “This is an entrepreneurial effort. But more than that, it’s to help deserving people.”

Though Lakota Industries has been operating out of Ohio, Williamson said the company was founded with the hope it would eventually help those from Cheyenne River.

“This is truly such a passion for me,” he said. “I have avoided paying myself since this company started.”

Williamson said relocating will create new jobs for some of the Cheyenne River people.

The relocation should initially translate into 10 new jobs on the reservation; and more jobs are expected to be created after that.

“With a good marketing campaign, we can get to 30 people (new employees) in two years.”

Four bow models with Lakota themes will be manufactured. The models are Oglala, Bison, Takini and Big Foot.

The price range of the bows is expected to be between $500 and $600. Those requesting custom finishes on bows will pay more.

Williamson said about 500,000 bows are sold in the U.S each year, but there are only a half dozen companies making the majority of them.

“We’re going to be competing with them. We’re going to be right up there with the best of them in a few years.”

Williamson is unsure of just how many bows will be produced at the company’s new South Dakota home.

“We have no way of knowing that. But we expect to launch a very aggressive marketing campaign.”

He believes this is the only way for the company to be successful.

“You can’t be a garage operation,” he said, adding that Lakota bows will be sold coast-to-coast. “Once you decide to compete with large manufacturers, you have to come up with the strategies to compete.”

Besides the move, Williamson’s company is preparing for a pair of major shows.

For starters, the company will be displaying its products at the Archery Trade Association show in Indianapolis in January. They plan to have people demonstrating the company’s products in full Native regalia.

“We hope to put on a dynamic show,” Williamson said.

The company is also hoping to make a splash at another big industry event, the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s SHOT show in Las Vegas, also in January.

“It’s going to be a very aggressive month but we will make it,” Williamson said.