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There's an upcoming cohort aimed at supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs. We visit with Brenna Ortiz who's hosting the cohort, in partnership wtih StrengthenND. She's the program manager at Native Max, an Indigenous fashion magazine. ~~~ Historian Tom Isern takes us back in time to prohibition with a Plains Folk essay. ~~~ Part interview, part existential game show, veteran NPR host Rachel Martin rips up the typical Q and A script and asks guests to go deep with her new show Wild Card. ~~~ Where we're from shapes who we are. In this episode of Poetry from Studio47, how place shaped poet Joe Wilkins.

Transcript of Creatives Indigenous

There’s an accelerator program aimed at helping Indigenous creatives launch businesses. This is being run in North Dakota through StrengthenND. They have invested in NativeMax to host a creative indigenous cohort in the state. You can find out more at StrengthenND.com or at CreativesIndigenous.NativeMax.com.

For how to apply, the next cohort gets going here in just a couple of weeks, and there is still room for applications. We're visiting today with Brenna Ortiz. She is a program manager and writer for NativeMax Magazine.

Ashley Thornberg

There is so much to pick apart in the work that you do and how the work that you do helps other people do the work that they want to do. So let's start with what you are doing at NativeMax Magazine, an indigenous fashion magazine, but that is really oversimplifying what it is you're originally doing.

Brenna Ortiz

Yeah, definitely. So actually, I ended up getting my position with NativeMax as a writer. So I did briefly write for NativeMax, but I actually got pulled away from writing to be able to help lead our program Creatives Indigenous, which is an accelerator program for native entrepreneurs who are in creative industries.

So we work directly with a lot of different artists across North America. And also, we just ended up having our last cohort internationally in New Zealand. So we did a cohort that was amongst Maori entrepreneurs in New Zealand and native entrepreneurs here in North America.

And so part of the work that we do is just to help indigenous entrepreneurs establish the foundation of their business, because we believe that artists can be business owners too. You know, sometimes there's just like a lack of resources, especially when it comes to working in creative industries.

Ashley Thornberg

Well, it's interesting that you said a lack of resources, because my mind went right to it's just such a different brain, such a different mindset to be sort of career oriented and business minded versus to be very artistic and flowy. So let's address both of those here. Is there as much of a gap between how the different brain types work as I might think there is?

And then what would be some of the resources that you address?

Brenna Ortiz

Yeah, so, you know, as far as the Western world of thinking goes in educational institutions, most of the business courses are native led. They don't have indigenous knowledge embedded into the curriculum. And so we feel as though that being able to fill that gap is important, especially with native entrepreneurs, because it incorporates their culture into their business rather than, you know, the Western way of thinking.

And so that's what we really try to do is just incorporate indigenous knowledge into the curriculum. So that way it is as pure and how do I say it? Culturally led, culturally advised as possible, so that way it's more relatable.

As far as, you know, an artist's brain and a business brain goes, I think they go hand in hand. It's it's just more so about decolonizing the way that we think about business, incorporating your cultural aspects into your business. How do these cohorts work?

So our cohorts are about six weeks long. We do a kickoff event at the beginning of it so that way we can meet everybody, get in touch with them, have that one on one like personal interaction with each other. And then every class after that is every Tuesday, Thursday evening via Zoom.

And we host the sessions, the core sessions like on Tuesday evenings and then Thursday evenings. We have a mentor that comes and joins us and we kind of just do an open discussion with the mentor, the entrepreneurs, participants in the program. So that way they can have the opportunity to network in those ways.

Ashley Thornberg

We are visiting today with Brenna Ortiz. She is a program manager and a writer with Native Max Magazine and will be helping to lead a cohort for creatives indigenous. This is being run in North Dakota through the program Strengthen ND and you can find out more on the Strengthen ND's website.

Do you have specific artists or entrepreneurial types in mind when you go into a cohort like this?

Brenna Ortiz

Not specifically, we try to work with as many different artists or creatives in any medium because we believe that creativity isn't necessarily held in a box. So we worked with anyone between like graphic designers, fashion designers, people who work in culinary, writers, poets, like I said, all different mediums because, you know, there's a way that they can create their own business depending on what, you know, their passion is. And yeah, we just try not to limit anybody.

Ashley Thornberg

I was playing around on the website NativeMaxMagazine.com and I noticed some of the other services that you are providing and I'm noticing things like coaching and mentoring. Just real quick, what is the distinction between coaching someone and mentoring someone?

Brenna Ortiz

I would definitely say mentoring is, you know, just providing wisdom, guidance. I think coaching will require you to kind of like give a little bit more of like a pep talk in a way, you know, building the other person up. But regardless, they go both hand in hand.

You know, if you're looking for somebody to mentor you off a specific subject, you know, that that guidance is it's not as pressurized, I guess. Coaching, coaching can maybe be kind of tied into, you know, it's usually used with sports, I feel like. So, you know, so so just between the two, I think that one just requires a little bit more of like pick me up, help me, you know, pick me up, help me.

Ashley Thornberg

Yeah, those are those are two words that a lot of people don't want to say, particularly that sort of and maybe this is a Western mindset thing and I'm not sure and I hope that you will correct me if I'm misspeaking here. But this this idea that we shouldn't have to ask for help, that we should just have to pick ourselves up by by the bootstraps. Do you run into that a lot when you're working with creatives?

I feel like so often I hear a phrase like imposter syndrome among all the people who are doing the coolest things.

Brenna Ortiz

Yeah, imposter syndrome is very real. You know, you get put into these maybe positions or your business might take off and it feels as though you might not be deserving of that. We've come across that within our cohorts before and, you know, that comes, you know, from a place in which Indigenous people specifically were never valued for their art.

You know, now the ways of the world are changing. You know, Native fashion is on the rise. Native art is on the rise.

There's more appreciation for that rather than appropriation, I would say. And so and so definitely just trying to change that dynamic of, you know, whether or not we belong in these spaces, because we do. We've always had these spaces.

And, you know, now it's just becoming more respected, for sure. Yeah. But knowing our worth is key to that, for sure.

Ashley Thornberg

And when did you feel like you most knew your worth or what does it feel like when you're standing in your power is maybe a better, that makes it more present tense, more active?

Brenna Ortiz

Yeah, that's a great question because it fluctuates amongst everyone. You know, we always end up facing insecurity or we might feel as though like the things that we put out into the world aren't seen maybe. But I think really just embodying, like just being able to create rather than creating in the eyes of someone else, like being an artist is more so about just creating something for the sake of like where your heart space is, you know, because everything that we do should should come from there.

Well, at least that's what I believe. And at the end of the day, searching for validation doesn't require you or like to create like creating doesn't have to be based off of validation. Right.

It's more so about doing what you love. And really pulling that into a business is essential, especially whenever we're trying to build a new way of thinking about business, entrepreneurship, especially in Native communities.

Ashley Thornberg

Yeah. When you say build a new way, can you expand on that?

Brenna Ortiz

Yeah, for sure. Just kind of tapping into what I was saying earlier about the Western way of thinking of business, you know, like oftentimes like we see our friends or like even families sometimes as competition, you know, for creating or doing some of the same work. And, you know, really it's about supporting each other rather than tearing each other down.

And we really try to put that into the curriculum, into the cohort. We really try to do everything very community based. And so just kind of reframing the ways of thinking about business, like it's not a competition.

It's a way to support each other and and, you know, help each other.

Ashley Thornberg


Brenna Ortiz

Is essential.

Ashley Thornberg

There is that thing, though, where businesses are supposed to make money. How do you talk to the groups? And I don't know how much you get in into detail into that, into these cohorts.

But talk to us about how you talk about money in these instances, if you would.

Brenna Ortiz

Yeah, I think the ways that we talk about it is it's an energy, you know, you know, whatever you're putting out there, if you're putting your full intention into it, you know, those things will come back to you. And and that's really how we try to discuss money, per se, because it at the end of the day, it is something that you attract. Now, depending on your work ethic and things like that, like it varies sometimes, but it's all about intention at the end of the day.

Ashley Thornberg

We're visiting today with Brenna Ortiz, a program manager and writer for Native Max Magazine. She's also helping to lead an upcoming cohort focusing on growing indigenous businesses in the state of North Dakota. You can find out more at creativesindigenous.nativemax.com or on the strengthennd.com website. The cohort gets going in mid-May and there is still room for participants. And Brenna, I want to go back to what we were just talking about, this thing about money and changing the mindset around it to be sort of this energy. And I've heard phrases like that a lot with people who are working in any sort of creative industry is that it can be really hard to set a price for something because you have to realize that you actually put a piece of your soul into it.

You put a piece of your heart into it. And when you use words like it was the intention and and it maybe is something that you lost 30 hours of sleep over and then somebody says, well, I don't want to pay $70 for it. That can be such a difficult part.

Do you do you ever wonder, do you ever wish we could run cohorts for the other end of this, for the how to be a good consumer and realize what we could be looking at a little differently? Mm hmm.

Brenna Ortiz

Yeah, for sure. I think honestly, something that I've realized is that being in these spaces, it can get a little intimidating by seeing someone's price. But if you really love their art and you really love their work, you know, you will buy it because that's like appreciating their art and they're naming their price.

So that means you appreciate them as an individual and you respect them. And there's a lot of that within our cohorts. You know, like everybody is so supportive.

Like I said, we do this very community based. So a lot of our alumni are still connected with each other. They still keep in touch.

They still keep in touch with us. And we really just try to build the space where everybody can, you know, it doesn't matter how long you talk to that person. You know, they offer different services sometimes, so they always end up reconnecting at some point later on down the line.

And they all really respect each other and value each other's work.

Ashley Thornberg

Yeah. I want to go back to Native Max Magazine here, because at the beginning I said, you know, an indigenous fashion magazine. And we both sort of agreed that that is is oversimplifying the work.

And even on the website, it says, you know, it's not a magazine. It's a movement. And, you know, if I look through something like Cosmo or Vogue or whatever, it just sort of feels.

Brenna Ortiz

Like oversaturated.

Ashley Thornberg

Well, like you're trying to tell me that I'm wrong, that I'm missing something, that I'm somehow not good enough. I don't get that sense from your magazine. Your magazine feels very celebratory, which can be very difficult given the legacy of centuries of racism.

How do you stay so positive?

Brenna Ortiz

Yeah, I think one of the main things that Kelly, our founder and CEO of Native Max, that she wants to do is highlight the positive indigenous stories. And, you know, the world's already hard. Things are already hard on, you know, as on individuals as a whole.

And so I think just really spreading the good word about our people is more important than highlighting negative aspects, I guess. But at the end of the day, it is a change in mindset because, you know. We're not like, oh, well, we're going to write about the 10 worst looks we saw this weekend at the fashion show, you know what I mean?

That's just not who we are as people. And I think we try to do a really good job about just highlighting positive stories rather than tearing other people down or talking about someone else's work.

Ashley Thornberg

Who are you watching? And it doesn't have to be fashion. You have artists like musicians featured in the magazine.

But you're in a very privileged position to be watching all of these young artists coming up in the world. Who catches your eye?

Brenna Ortiz

There's a few makeup artists that I really like. I do makeup, too. I mean, I adore makeup, so that's just one of the things I always keep out for.

Anchovy on Instagram, Little Coyote. He's an artist. Rebecca Jarvie, Jillian Waterman, just to name a few.

NOTE: Prairie Public transcripts are created on a rush deadline by turboscribe.ai. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of "Main Street" is the audio record of the show.