“ENLS provides young natives with an opportunity to learn how to benefit their respective communities. It provided me an opportunity to network and meet other natives from around the country that I otherwise wouldn’t have met. It allowed me to gain a better understanding of what the 8(a) program is and why it is so valuable to companies like All Native Group and how the program benefits tribes. ENLS prepared me to advocate for tribal corporations and the 8(a) program whether I go to Capitol Hill or to a Senate Hearing. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at ENLS and I am excited to return for a second year.”- Mikaela Downes


NACA wanted to find out if ENLS truly makes a lasting impression on its attendees so what better way than to catch up with an ENLS Alumnus? We touched base with 2016 ENLS Participant, Mikaela Downes in search of answers. Mikaela is a graduate of Georgetown University and a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and currently serves as a Liaison, bridging inter-company marketing development projects with the All Native Group (ANG), a division of Ho-Chunk, Incorporated. We approached Mikaela wanting to know, is ELNS impactful for attendees’ professional careers?


Ms. Downes had been with ANG for a month and a half when she attended ENLS. Her expectations were dancing around the unknown, as she’d only seen promotional information for the event. What she did know was that she’d be around other American Indian and Alaskan Natives with similar interests and an understanding of the community.
At the time, Mikaela served as a Proposal Writer and shared more about her expectations by saying, “As a proposal writer I felt I would learn more about government contracting, which was helpful for what I was doing. [After attending ENLS] I felt I knew more about what I was writing about.” Mikaela further went on to explain that ENLS was important for her to better understand the 8(a) program and its purpose. Connecting the dots is what ENLS aims to do. It’s important to always keep the community in mind. The businesses are there to support, revitalize, grow, and protect the community.
ENLS is truly an effort to give back to our Native community and support our young people on their journey to becoming the next generation of tenacious business leaders. We feel strongly that ENLS serves as a stepping stone for ambitious youth, interested in business and economic development within the American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian community. NACA’s goal is not only to support its members in the challenges they face, but also to prepare them and their communities to usefully advocate for themselves in business using the tools available to them. ENLS assists future leaders in understanding the variety of political points that affect Native-owned small businesses.

Again this year, NACA has joined the Center for Native American Youth and its Generation Indigenous initiative. NACA will join their efforts in hosting a Generation Indigenous Native Youth Summer Networking Reception. The networking platform is largely a part of ENLS as well. Networking establishes core relationships that are at the base of getting things done in our communities. Knowing who to turn to, maximizing resources, and strategic partnerships are all vital in the end and the way we successfully conduct business.

For more information regarding this event, contact Chelsea Fish at chelseafish@nativecontractors.org