NNI's Native American Youth Entrepreneurship Camp Returns

Aug. 23, 2019
NNI's Native American Youth Entrepreneurship Camp Returns

NNI hosted the seventeenth Native American Youth Entrepreneurship Camp (NAYEC), an Indigenous centered program that fills a critical gap in youth entrepreneurship education. The camp was held June 17 – 21, 2019 at the University of Arizona and facilitated by NNI staff members: Joan Timeche (Hopi), Andrew Martinez (Salt River River-Maricopa Indian Community), Danielle Hiraldo (Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina), Keishaun Aspaas, Mona Nozhackum (Prairie Band of Potawatomi Nation), Jason Aragón, and Davida Delmar (Navajo Nation/Diné). This year's cohort ranged from rising high school sophomores to rising 1st-year college students and represented Navajo, Pascua Yaqui, Tohono O'odham, and Yupik Nations.

The camp invited Native American entrepreneurs to share how they got their start, how they continue to find meaning in their work, and most importantly, lessons they learned along the way. April Tinhorn (Hualapai Tribe, Navajo Nation) Owner and Founder of Tinhorn Consulting, discussed her business' pitfalls and successes; Mario Valencia (Pascua Yaqui Tribe), Owner 1519 Rebellion T-Shirts, showed how he turned his hobby into a business; and Joel Lopez (Tohono O'odham Nation), President, Ringside Promotions, LLC, hosted NAYEC's Business Showcase. NNI’s Business Showcase is NAYEC’s capstone event where students present finalized business plans and financials to a panel of judges: Ashley Tsosie-Mahieu, Co-Director, Founder Institute Tucson; Rick Yngve, Interim Director, McGuire Center For Entrepreneurship, UA Eller College of Management; and Adonis Trujillo, Program Manager, Microsoft. Winners of the Showcase are awarded cash prizes to help bring their ideas to market. One of the young entrepreneurs, Yesenia Cocio, founder of Yesenia's Just Desserts remarked, "I want to make desserts that you don't see every day," and she told the judges "I will be doing something I am passionate about and will be bringing my community closer together through delicious desserts."

NNI would like to acknowledge our sponsors who made NAYEC 2019 possible: Microsoft, AMERIND Risk, The Taylor Policy Group, McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship at the Eller College of Management, and the Udall Foundation.

Images featuring the Native Youth Entrepreneurs, NNI Staff, April Tinhorn, Joel Lopez, and Business Showcase judges

NAYEC brings into focus Native history, economic conditions, assets, and resources that are accessible to empower the next generation of Indigenous community leaders. In addition to teaching, NNI staff took on mentorship roles with the students. Media Specialist, Jason Aragón, emphasized the importance of social media and challenged the students to give a 30-second elevator speech via an Instagram live session. Aragón commented, "The kids noticed people tuning in on the IG live screen right away. It was great to see them feel an immediate reaction to having an instant audience out in the world." NAYEC also holds a marketplace, hosted by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, that allows students to take wholesale items and create a product to sell. The youth entrepreneurs made profits ranging from $20 to $47, based off an initial budget of $10.



  • Mekhi Anderson (Navajo Nation)
  • Yesenia Cocio (Pascua Yaqui Tribe)
  • Torin Jacobs, Jr. (Orutsararmiut Native Council)
  • Jasmin Johnson (Tohono O'odham Nation)
  • Kyle James (Navajo Nation)
  • Amanda Madril (Pascua Yaqui Tribe)
  • Jose Urbalego (Pascua Yaqui Tribe)
  • Elizabeth Valenzuela-Leon (Pascua Yaqui Tribe)