Engage Expo highlights TERO-certified businesses
CATOOSA, Okla. – More than 100 Tribal Employment Rights Office-certified vendors gathered on Nov. 2 to highlight and grow their businesses at the Engage Expo inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.
“It’s just a great chance for our TERO vendors and then our Cherokee Nation entities and then some other outside businesses that do minority procurement to come together and show off their business and network with other people,” Stephen Highers, Cherokee Nation Commerce department entrepreneur and development manager, said.
To be TERO certified, businesses must be Indian-owned by constituting no less than 51 percent ownership. There are more than 800 TERO-certified vendors.
Highers said vendors spanning various businesses come from across the United States to attend the expo, bringing sample products and information.
“We have artists in the room that are here today. We have big construction companies. We have small businesses that are in the room, and then we also have a lot of resource partners,” he said. “So we have different Native American tribes here. It’s just kind of a great day to celebrate all that is being a certified Indian-owned business.”
Vendors also took part in free workshops on capacity building and received information about bidding on projects with CN and other businesses.
The TERO helps businesses working with the CN fill contractor vacancies by referring TERO-certified businesses. In 2017, TERO vendors earned more than $36 million in contracts.
“We hope that this whole day is about capacity building and growing their capacity, whether that is networking with another TERO vendor and they form a relationship and now they can grow together, or figuring out how they can get their foot in the door with the federal government or another procurement agency,” Highers said.
CN citizen Greg Stice, owner and designer of Cherokee Copper, a jewelry-based business, attended to promote his work as a TERO-certified artist.
“I’m proud to be a TERO-certified artist,” Stice said. “It gives credence or credibility out into the world that we are a Native American company, a Cherokee company, and we’re proud of that.”
The company is also family owned and operated and uses copper, silver, brass, hemp and deerskin to create each handmade piece.
“In Oklahoma everybody thinks silver and turquoise, but that’s Navajo,” Stice said. “Cherokee (art) is simple – the copper, the pearls, the gemstones, the things that are coming from Mother Earth. It’s either under the land, on the land or in the water.”
Stice said Cherokee Copper products begin at $20 for items such as earrings and pendants. More intricate pieces can cost upwards of $400 or more. Custom orders can also be placed.
Also on site was Cooper Construction owner Brian Cooper, who started his business more than nine years ago at the urging of several co-workers familiar with the TERO program.
“TERO has helped me start, and they’ve helped me grow,” Cooper said. “The program has just been great for us. Without TERO, there’s no way we would be where we are today.”
Cooper said more than 96 percent of his business comes from tribes that have found him through the TERO, including the CN to work on the Cherokee Casino & Hotel Roland.
He encouraged any Indian-owned business to become TERO certified.
“It allows me to stay within the tribe and work with our own,” he said. “You just have to ask for help if you need it and don’t panic whenever you see all the paperwork.”
For more information about becoming TERO certified, visit www.cherokeetero.com