Jae Jae Small
This week’s entrepreneur spotlight shines on Gerald J. Small Jr. (Jae Jae).
Jae Jae is a United States Marine Corps Veteran and a member of the ChippewaCree Tribe, located on the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation. In addition to being an entrepreneur, Jae Jae works for the Rocky Boy Veteran’s Center as an IT Manager.
There is something very unique and humble about Jae Jae and his journey as a Native American entrepreneur.
His entrepreneur venture started in 2012, while he was living in Washington pursuing his education. He went to school at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families -Syracuse University, for Information Technology and Visual Communication.
In addition the Native American Development Fund offered a business writing class that Jae Jae decided to attend for three months.
“From there I was encouraged to look into opportunities - places where people don’t look at to find a good business venture, and for me, I like being in circles,” says Jae Jae.
With this, he began looking into the powwow circle and tried to figure out a business venture that nobody has thought of yet.
“I started out by looking at the powwow drum groups. You can see people recording the drum groups and then later parading their YouTube powwow videos.”
He discovered that during the transition between drum groups there was a timeslot that was not being utilized.
“I don’t think anyone has ever paid attention. It’s usually between 30 seconds to 5 minutes, depending on the EmCee (powwow announcer).” says Jae Jae.
Jae Jae went to school for advertisement, marketing, and information technology, but he also taught himself how to conduct his own music and film editing techniques on his own.
“There has to be something inside that time slot. I want to do commercialization of Native American products, like arts, crafts, and music artists.”
Ultimatley, Jae Jae’s main reason for pursuing his business venture is the connection of his favorite circles that it resembles;
Family, Pow wow and Rodeo, and life through a lens of an Indigenous man.
His own personal motivation and drive comes from believing in himself and having the courage
to pull through his own mental blocks and personal issues that he has overcome.
“Once I pushed through that I think it became easier and I progressed.”
He began his entrepreneurial journey by writing business plans for a data, community development and creativity center, and is currently in pursuit of a startup audio and film production. He has also entered into business competitions and applied for the Montana Indian Equity Fund.
Although he was not selected for funding, Small says he still puts away money to save and buys his own equipment. He showcases his laptop, Vivitar camera and his mic/cell phone tripod stance and adobe software to edit and manipulate pictures and video. Now he needs to follow the powwow trail and begin his venture.
Jae Jae adds that he recognizes that not everyone can attend powwows and empathizes with the elderly and people who just can’t make it, but would want to be there within the healing circle of life that powwows provide for people.
“I’m not a selfish person” Making this a reality for others is truly what sits in his heart for this particular venture.
As Accelerate Montana begins to collaborate with Indigenous communities, we began to learn that issues with things like infrastructure, credit, and funding can be crippling to rural areas and many startups and ideas can die out due to these issues. One of the goals for Accelerate Montana’s Rural Innovation Initiative is to work towards “building a bridge” to diminish that gap.
I beleive Accelerate Montana’s resources, and coaching can be a great asset to the Indigenous community and to entrepreneurs like Jae Jae. Every bit of information, resources, networking, and collaboration can help to bring inspiration, and or ideas to entrepreneurs.
We are thankful for Jae Jae to take the time to tell us his story and look forward to meeting with him to discuss his venture further and to see where his startup journey goes from here! Jae Jae thanks AMRII for the opportunity to be in the spotlight.Signing off, this is Chelsey Buck, also a member of the ChippewaCree tribe of the Rocky Boy Reservation.