PABLO – Seven Flathead Nation tribal member interns with the Montana Indian Youth Small Business Program made a visit to the CSKT Tribal Council last Thursday. They thanked the leaders for the opportunity to work at local businesses across the Flathead Reservation this summer and tell of their advantageous and gratifying experiences learning the business world.
Earlier this year the CSKT Economic Development Office (EDO) recruited local business to sponsor the interns. Access Montana, Eagle Bank, Valley Bank, S and K Technologies, Blue Bay Campground and the Lake County Community Development Corporation (a non-profit business) stepped up to pass on the baton of knowledge.
This year the EDO internship program had the most interns of the three-year State Tribal Economic Development Commission grant. The first year there were three interns, the second year two and this year six.
Economic Development Office Director Janet Camel, told the Tribal Council that EDO started recruiting sponsors in January.
“We had about nine sponsors and some dropped out because they realized it (internship) wasn’t for them,” Camel said. “However, there was some local business that wanted to train a young mind for their business to ‘Carry it on.’”
The EDO received several applicants. Selections were based on: the application, letter of recommendation, transcripts, and proof of enrollment. Applicants mentioned their career job interest and the EDO helped match them to interview with sponsors. “Dacia (Whitworth) was a big help in that,” Camel said.
The interns for the third and last year of the State Tribal Economic Development Commission grant for the pilot Montana Indian Youth Small Business Program were: Sariel Sandoval, Access Montana; Alana Earthboy, Eagle Bank; Reese Bird, Valley Bank; Patricia Hendrickx, Blue Bay Campground; Lynnette Powderface, S&K Technologies; and Tynneal Flammond, Mission Mountain Enterprises.
Camel said the EDO with Tribal Council approval applied for the state grant more than three years ago to provide an opportunity for tribal member youth to learn how businesses operate, gain some work experience and further develop communication and customer service skills, and basically learn “behind the scenes” business management that is the real picture of dedication and perseverance.
CSKT is one of two tribes in the state of Montana to receive the grant.
Each of the six interns, including one intern from the first year, described their work experiences along with their sponsors last Thursday at the Tribal Council chambers.
Valley Bank Intern Reese Bird will be continuing following the internship as a bank employee.
What they learned and the best practices.
“It is a great program. I got to see from beginning to end and make a choice where I wanted to go,” Bird told the Tribal Council members. “This really introduced me and further my career in business and figure out where I want to go.”
Bird said she appreciated learning that each individual person matters in a company. “A good attitude keeps everything running smooth,” she said.
“It really taught me a lot about the mechanics of business, logistics and cash flow,” said first-year intern Louis Bunce. He told the Tribal Council the opportunity gave him the chance to learn the tiny details of running a business that he may have overlooked. “It was really cool to learn from someone that already figured it out.”
Earthboy learned that to run a good business the key is a good attitude and mindset. Working together and being patient and learning to understand is a business practice she walked away with.
Powderface said it was the teamwork at S&K Technologies that helped her gain insight of the business. “I was all over the place asking questions and asking why we do it this way,” she said during the luncheon share time. Asking for help and receiving the help is valuable, she said.
Flammond said keeping open communication and asking “why” was valuable to her learning opportunity. Being on the same page and talking to each other is important, she said. Flammond said she learned the business from front desk, to back on the processing floor learning customer service, to being on top of a process where there can’t be mistakes or it sets back the whole operation. “We were always moving; there wasn’t any leeway,” she said
Hendrickx said the practice she learned at Blue Bay Campground was being able to problem solve on a moment’s notice. “Communicating with angry customers you have to remain mellow and level headed,” she said. “When you keep a smile on your face it’s easier to talk to another person when they are upset.”
Sandoval said bouncing around to a variety of positions and putting customers first helped her grow as a professional this summer. “We would drop everything when a customer came in,” she said, adding that customers are the main support of the business and learning to understand what they need and promptly getting the answer is key. Sandoval said it was stressful at first handling unhappy customers but as time went on it got easier.
Dixon District Tribal Council Rep. Anita Matt congratulated the interns and told fellow council members finding funding opportunities for future internships should be on their to-do-list.
Camel said when she heard the interns describe their experiences both in past years and last week she was proud of their enthusiasm, their dedication and interest in learning.
“Their appreciation of teamwork, and how each individual in a business plays a role that the other team members rely upon, was very insightful,” Camel said. “These individuals more than met my expectations for a successful program and I wish them all the best in their future careers.”
“They seem like the varsity team,” said Hot Springs District Tribal Council Rep. Leonard Gray.