|The following story was written and reported by David Michaud
Native Sun News correspondent. All content © Native Sun News.
Sharice Davids poses in front of her booth at the Oglala Nation Pow wow.
HOKA! Coffee is a-brewing on the Rez
By David Michaud
Native Sun News correspondent
PORCUPINE - Some people are lucky enough to find a job that stimulates their passions, Sharice Davids just happens to be one of those people.
Sharice’s recently created a coffee company on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Taking inspiration from the Lakota language she decided to name her company Hoka! Coffee.
“I made a list of things I am passionate about and there were just a few things on it – economic development in Indian country, martial arts and coffee,” said Davids.
To this point in time Hoka! has been attempting to spread their name throughout the reservation by making appearances at various events. The first event Hoka! appeared at was the OLC graduation pow wow and after that they attended Oglala Nation Pow Wow, with great results.
“We actually ran out of the coffee we prepared on Saturday,” said Davids. “By the time we realized we were going to run out of coffee it was already 3:00 p.m. so we ended up having to shut down at about 8:45 on Saturday night.”
Although Hoka! ran out of coffee before the end of the pow wow they are looking at that as a positive. People wouldn't continue purchasing a sub-par product, after all.
Hoka! has made several appearances around the Pine Ridge Reservation since then, each time further spreading the word about their product. With each appearance they grow the business little by little, exposing more people to first-class coffee sold by people from the same community as they live in. Davids has nothing but optimism after seeing the results.
“I would call Hoka! a total success so far,” said Davids. “Granted we have only been in business for about a month, I think the events we have had stands at have been very successful and our Facebook page is gaining a lot of momentum. We have about 720 likes on our Facebook page. It is really amazing to see the amount of support people have for Hoka! Coffee.”
To go along with the Facebook page, Hoka! coffee also has a website, www.hokacoffee.com, where most of their business takes place. People can order coffee off the website, ground or whole bean, in 12 ounce bags. It is currently only being sold in one store on the Reservation, but they are actively searching for more businesses who wish to carry Hoka!
As with any start-up business, getting the company off the ground has not been all fun and games. Davids is new to the Pine Ridge area, she moved from Kansas about a year ago and is a member of the Ho-Chunk tribe in Wisconsin. She had to learn about the Oglala Sioux Tribe's laws and ordinances before she could hope to begin anything.
She also has the hurdle of finding land for her biggest goal with the company, creating a roasting facility on the Reservation.
“I did have to learn some new things about business licenses with OST and that sort of red tape type stuff that varies from one place to another,” said Davids. “In terms of specifically starting on the Rez I think the most difficult thing will be figuring out where and how to get the roasting facility going.”
“I have to try to find a location, to either buy or to lease and being new in the area does add a little bit of time to that process. I live in Porcupine but our first employee, and general manager, lives closer to Pine Ridge. We will have to sit down and decide where on the Reservation will be the most efficient for both of us and also for things like shipments in to our facility and shipments to our customers who purchase online.”
That first employee, with more to come according to Davids who thinks she can eventually employ six people, is Amandaline Ecoffey. From the start she was there lending a hand but now she will be there officially.
“She has unofficially helped with a few things but has decided to come on as a regular employee and really try to help us grow the business. I am really excited about her starting because she is a smart, creative person who I think is really going to help us move to the next stage,” said Davids.
Once Davids is able to get her roasting facility up and moving she envisions being able to employ more people and helping to invigorate the Reservation economy.
Along with employing people under Hoka!, Davids is also working with as many local, Native businesses as she can. Hoka! currently has shirts and tote bags for sale and they are created by Lakota Art Studio.
Davids makes sure to get to know the people she is going to be working with. She makes sure that they are in businesses for the right reason, not someone who is just looking to make money any way possible. This approach led her to a Roastmaster from Colorado.
After meeting with him several times and seeing his community and economic building in South American coffee growing countries he and Davids came up with a plan for Hoka! Coffee Beans.
“He is someone I really wanted to work with because he had experience in the type of growth I want to have on the Reservation,” said Davids. “Many times in the South American countries where we (people in the U.S.) get our coffee from, the farmers are indigenous people who have a plot of land and the perfect conditions to grow great coffee but they lack some of the infrastructure and support to get their product to people who would really love to buy it.”
“Sometimes I think we have that in Indian country. We have a lot to offer, in terms of products, services and ideas but we don’t always have the infrastructure to really demonstrate that to people,” said Davids.
While there is still a long ways to go before the company is at the spot Davids envisioned when she started the company she believes it will get there. She is encouraged by the amount of people who have helped out so far.
“There are so many people who have been helping in these early stages,” said Davids.
That helps with all that it takes to run a company, especially one in its early stages. Davids says her days typically consist of trying to figure out ways to grow the company, and of course sending out the coffee that people have purchased online. She is currently looking for places to sell the coffee as well.
Having the support from her friends and family while pursuing her dream, to stimulate the Pine Ridge economy, will certainly be beneficial to this hard working woman. If you are a coffee drinker maybe look for Hoka! next time you are at a Pow Wow on the Pine Ridge Reservation, or take a look at their website.
(Contact David Michaud at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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