Entrepreneurial spirit lands students in first place in national American Indian Business Plan competition
Children’s book ‘Lily Good Path Becomes the Buffalo’ brings homes 6th national AIBL title for MSUB; available for sale as e-book and print on Amazon
April 14, 2016
AJ Otjen, College of Business, 657-2908
Carmen Price, University Relations and Communications, 657-2266
Story by Blair Koch, University Relations and Communications intern
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — The American Indian Business Leaders team of Montana State University Billings brought home the national championship last week, and while the trio’s business venture is just beginning, it’s the sixth national championship won by MSUB’s AIBL.
The competition’s platform encourages business and marketing students to identify culturally significant business plans to boost the economies of American Indian reservations.
The student organization, consisting of the team’s president Bessie Crooked Arm, 21, Sabrina Half, 23, and Violet Birdinground, 21, presented a business plan for the children’s book they produced, “Lily Good Path Becomes the Buffalo,” during a conference in Phoenix, Ariz. on April 8 and 9. They competed against AIBL clubs with universities from Alaska to Colorado.
Their company is called Bakaate, meaning “children,” in the Apsaalooke (Crow) language.
Professor of marketing and the AIBL advisor Dr. AJ Otjen, who created the watercolor illustrations featured in the book, said competition judges noted “they really appreciated that (the team) always paused and consulted each other on every question before answering. It was obvious that they worked as a team.”
Lily Good Path combines Indian folklore from many tribal heritages. Although all of the women on the team are Crow Tribal Members, they wanted a story that would resonate for everyone and fit their company’s mission statement: To inspire and empower youth by taking care of mother earth and respecting all American Indian cultures.
The story is based on the Native American lore of The Great Flood from the Yellowstone and The White Face Bear from the Aleuts Tribe.
The book’s title is named after Crooked Arm’s Indian name, Good Path, bestowed upon her when she was 3 by her great-grandmother.
The overarching message of the book, and the two sequels already slated for production, is in being good stewards of the Earth and creatures around us.
Writing the short stories, filled with vibrant drawings and colorful watercolor paintings, may have been the easy part.
The AIBL team took a year to fundraise, plan and execute their company, which even has a place for spinning off plush toys and costumes made from natural fibers and earth-friendly packaging.
“We plan on selling those in year two,” said Half.
However, their real target market is education and they would really like to see the book placed in elementary school curriculums and on bookshelves.
“My mom is a fourth-grade teacher and her kids just loved the story,” said Half. “That was some really great feedback.”
For now, they are excited to have an online presence that is quickly growing. A Facebook page started weeks ago has already garnered more than 600 likes.
Otjen said she isn’t surprised by the positive response.
“At first I was a bit of a mother hen, but soon the group was telling me what to do,” she said. “They are so much better with Facebook, websites, uploading the e-book and coming up with ideas for promoting it.
“But the most important thing is that they really took ownership of the value and authenticity of the book and character. It’s their world and I am just lucky to be included in the process.”
For more information about Bakaate, visit www.bakaate.com