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Blog: Being A Founder

SCOTTSDALE, AZ – What exactly does it mean to be a founder? For me, it has been about becoming comfortable with the unknown. I am not an expert on founding new companies or endeavors. But I’ve always been comfortable with my own confidence because basically, you will never know enough about starting a new nonprofit, a new organization, or new venture.

One thing I know for sure is that helping to get KUYI Hopi Radio on the air, getting the Hopi Education Endowment Fund started, or proposing that the Hopi Junior-Senior High School establish a radio/journalism class, was always about other people. Once you realize this, it is both humbling and confidence boosting.

I’ve also learned that if you have a wild idea, and if it is a high value proposition, it just might fly. When Barbara Poley and I started our first endowments under the Hopi Foundation for the Barbara Chester Award and General Operations, we had two markers of success under our belt. These were not huge endowments, but we knew how to set them up. So when Chairman Taylor of the Hopi Tribe starting talking about solutions for greater educational outcomes, both Barbara and I thought an endowed fund for the Hopi Tribe would be a perfect fit. Combined with our experience with working for the Office of the Chairman, we had confidence our knowledge would guide us and the rest would come from the wisdom of others.

As producers of value, showing instead of telling, is always the right road. Seven years ago, a group of us sat around the table and envisioned a group of high school students learning about radio, television, and Internet platforms during a one-week boot camp. We wanted to show young people that broadcast technologies, journalism, and Internet storytelling was within their reach of understanding. We had faith that given the opportunity, young people who had no experience operating a television camera could work in front of the camera or behind it. We were right and the Andy Harvey Youth Broadcast and Journalism Workshop has been a huge success.

Starting a radio station, endowment, or establishing a Tribal Priority for Broadcast or the Office of Native Affairs under the Federal Communications Commission is not easy. Knowing where to go for help and understanding the start-up hierarchy is just as important. This means developing relationships with mentors, and more senior and experienced people. Asking questions is key especially when you are dealing with the unknown. This includes cultural experts across Tribal communities who can school you on the subtle nuances of the local environment that will become a plus instead of a sticky pond.

I’ve met many brilliant people along my founding road. Other founders like Sherry Salway Black, Barbara Poley, Geoffrey Blackwell, and Art Brooks. There are so many more individuals and each deserves a huge thank-you for helping to make life better for all generations across Indian Country because they also didn’t give up on a wild idea. We have a lot to be proud of.

As life moves forward, one last lesson is knowing when to let go. This is about having tremendous faith that the next generation, the next leader, the next person, will take what was once a wild idea, and make it grow, flourish, and multiply so that the benefits are exponential. I’ve suffered from “founders syndrome” but I’ve learned to let go. And from time-to-time, I am reminded that the good work I helped to start with my many colleagues are still healthy, purposeful, and robust.

Such was the occasion on November 14, 2018, when KUYI radio and the Hopi Education Endowment Fund received awards from the Heard Museum and the Phoenix Indian Center. Nothing can surpass the reward of having “proud mama status.”

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