WINNEBAGO, Neb. - Like most of today's entrepreneurs, investment in dot coms appears to be the way to make it big in the financial market.
When Ho Chunk Inc., the economic development company of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, took an investment from the tribe's successful WinnaVegas Casino five years ago it planned to build and invest in motels and restaurants.
Now, Lance Morgan, Ho-Chunk Inc. executive director, said he would put the emphasis on e-business in the future. Ho-Chunk Inc. boasts assets of between $15 million and $17 million and, with the addition of AllNative.com, Morgan said the growth will be more rapid.
All Native.com started more than a year ago with sales of American Indian cigarettes, teas and coffee. A $1.6 million per year business quickly grew to $3 million. Customers now buy arts and crafts, wild rice, fry bread mix and American Indian jewelry in addition to cigarettes.
To be involved with e-business Ho-Chunk Inc. invested in an emerging web company called Indianz.com. The intent, Morgan said, was to help Indianz.com grow and develop. That it did, so much so, that now AllNative.com merged with Indianz.com to provide a "one stop shop for all your Native needs," the press release said.
"AllNative.com has exceeded all of our growth and revenue expectations. We are currently projecting revenues to approach $3 million this year," Morgan said. "With the addition of Indianz.com's Native content we should be able to greatly expand our ability to reach a wider market. We believe we are perfectly positioned to establish the first vertically integrated Native American product and content company on the web."
To accommodate the increase in distribution, AllNative.com built a 7,000 square foot facility in Winnebago. When it started, a large garage held the cigarette warehouse and stamping business while a portion of the basement of the building owned by Ho-Chunk Inc. was used as the offices and computers for AllNative.com.
"One year ago, we decided that one of the best ways to leverage AllNative.com and exploit the growth of the Internet was to use our central location, available labor and our regulatory advantages to create a distribution center for e-commerce companies.
"Because of our experience with AllNative.com, we understood the logistical difficulties of online order fulfillment. We felt that other companies would gladly outsource their distribution functions and fortunately we appear to have been correct," Morgan said.
He said other companies, such as HorseZone.com, will take advantage of AllNative.com's warehouse and pay the company a small fee to package and mail products. Other companies may also use the warehouse facility, which is centrally located in the country.
But the merger of the two dot coms is expected to show the largest growth in the e-business for Ho-Chunk Inc. Presently, AllNative.com with Indianz.com is turning over an estimated $200,000 per month with 10 new customers per day. The merger of the two companies will give AllNative.com additional exposure through links.
Indianz.com, started by two people some 10 months ago with little money, was supported by Ho-Chunk Inc. Features such as, e-mail, chat rooms, on-line daily newspaper and classified ads will become part of the site.
Morgan said the company is working out technical details and coping with limitations to figure how the expansion could take place. Indianz.com was redesigned just recently.
"As we add features, we will expand to get where we should be, and we will be so far ahead of anybody else in this area it will be hard for others to compete," Morgan said.
"The long-term future is in this business. We had 6,000 visitors yesterday. The tribes are a year or two behind and I don't know anyone who is trying to exploit e-commerce," Morgan said.
The addresses are www.indianz.com and www.AllNative.com.