The IDEA Competition has concluded its 2020-2021 season by naming and awarding one overall winner and four runners-up in the annual competition that aims to support northwest Minnesota entrepreneurs in turning their great ideas into great businesses.
Ron Turney received a $2,500 cash award toward the development of Indigenous Origins, a SaaS (Software as a Service) platform for Indigenous artists, Native-owned small businesses, and Tribal-owned businesses that enables them to start an e-commerce store at no cost while joining a marketplace with truly authentic Indigenous arts, goods, and services.
Turney, a traditional Ojibwe artist from the White Earth and Red Lake Nations, saw the need for such a service as the online marketplace has been proliferated with cheap knock-off items and foreign-made items posing as Indigenous art. Cultural appropriation is a real hurdle to artists and culture bearers.
The Indigenous Origins platform would consist of a website and mobile application that would allow members of federally recognized tribes to start a store and upload products or services, like Etsy and Amazon. The platform will include verification systems and integrate e-learning options so artists can upload art classes, courses, and workshops and monetize those as well.
“It came from trying to sell and teach my own art and hearing other artists’ issues. Access to cultural knowledge, workshops, and such are hindered by distance among our tribal communities,” Turney said. “I have been networking and made friends with other artists and we have wanted a platform for ourselves. … They cannot wait for it to (launch). They’re excited, they know we’ve been needing something like this.”
Turney, who has more than 25 years’ experience in web design and digital marketing, said he expects to launch Indigenous Origins within the next month.
“The momentum is here,” he said. “Now we’ve got a platform of our own to build upon and the support from everyone has been 100 percent. Indigenous Origins will help bridge the gap for e-commerce, learning, and networking among our tribal communities.”