Case Study: Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures Tribal Economy Business Incubator (TEBI)


Challenge: Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures, a political subdivision and for-profit corporation owned by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, launched an initiative to analyze the potential creation of business incubators across an area defined as its tribal economy. As part of this process, it sought to engage local entrepreneurs, organizations, and community stakeholders through focus groups while supporting the direction that came from the process with community research. 

Role: Northspan conducted background research on the tribal economy and launched both a community survey on entrepreneurism and a survey of entrepreneurial resource providers. With the assistance of three Mille Lacs Band members who served as community coordinators, Northspan then recruited local stakeholders to six focus groups across the Band’s three districts, including both in-person and virtual options. The focus groups included a cultural invocation, a review of the economics and demographics of the local economy, information on entrepreneurial resources, and participant input on the proposed incubator’s practical vision and mission. 

Results: Focus group attendees shared a wealth of information that helped shape the concept for the incubator, whose development is a work in progress. Attendees also expressed appreciation for a space where Native and non-Native community members could work collectively toward shared goals. The project eventually led to the awarding of a $3.1 million grant from the federal Economic Development Administration for two incubator buildings. 

Read the full report HERE.

References: Dustin Goslin, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures Vice President of Business & Economic Development,, 320-532-8855; Sara Treiber, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures Senior Business Development Planner,, 320-532-8807