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HomeBusinessMontana BusinessMSU’s American Indigenous Business Leaders student chapter earns second place in national...

MSU’s American Indigenous Business Leaders student chapter earns second place in national competition

BOZEMAN — A student organization at Montana State University that aims to empower Indigenous business students was recognized at a national conference last month.

The student chapter of American Indigenous Business Leaders at MSU earned second place in the 2024 National AIBL Business Plan Competition, university division, at AIBL’s Business and Leadership Student Conference in Las Vegas. Other divisions represented at the conference were tribal colleges and high school chapters.

Sierra Real Bird, a business management major and returning member of AIBL at MSU, said this year’s competition was fierce and included more student chapters than in previous years. The contest provided an opportunity for students to increase their knowledge and experience in business, leadership and entrepreneurship by preparing a business plan and presenting it at the conference before a panel of judges.

“After every school presented, even as an experienced group, I thought we were not going to place because of how great everyone else did,” Real Bird said. “For example, one school had a product sample for a unique jam from their homelands. When the award banquet came, I thought about just being a good sport and cheering for everyone who won. But as a team we did not give up hope, and when our school was announced, we were in shock. We accepted our award with gratitude.”

The MSU student team included Real Bird; Blythe Gill, accounting; Lana Redfield management; Taylee Rides At The Door, management; and Naomi Redfield, a microbiology graduate student.

Their business plan focused on producing Native-authored books for children that highlight traditional games and practices through a yet-to-be-created publishing company, Valley of the Flowers Publishing, dedicated to producing the books. The chapter’s members are from the Crow and Blackfeet tribes, and both tribes have referred to the Bozeman area as Valley of the Flowers.

“I believed we had a solid presentation and business plan that set us apart from other schools,” Real Bird said.

Virginia Bratton, associate professor of management, and Laura Black, a professor of management, both in the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship, advise the chapter and support its activities.

“The students have worked hard to participate in the national conference and compete in the business plan competition,” Bratton said. “I am so proud for their hard work. It is also so gratifying to see them interact with students and business leaders at this conference. They are excellent ambassadors of Montana State University.”

The MSU chapter has also received support from the Alderson family, the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship, the MSU NSF ART grant program and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which allowed the students to participate in the business competition and attend the conference.

AIBL is a national organization that seeks to increase the representation of American Indians and Alaska Natives in business and entrepreneurial ventures. Currently, there are more than 75 chapters nationwide. MSU’s student chapter is open to students of any race, academic major or career objectives. For more information, visit www.montana.edu/business/bracken/clubs/aibl/index.html.

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