Meskwaki, Inc.: Inspiring Diversification and Entrepreneurship in Iowa

Courtesy Meskwaki, Inc. Meskwaki Travel Plaza along Highway 30 in Tama, Iowa

Meskwaki, Inc. is creating economic viability for future generations by helping tribal members to own small businesses

Years ago, the Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa sought to move beyond the casino business. That desire to diversify led to the creation of Meskwaki, Inc., in 2008. It took seven years before Meskwaki, Inc., started generating revenue, but today, business is booming. “In 2015, we grew to about $15 million. We’re approaching $20 million now. I think once the warehouse and distribution facility gets onboard revenues will grow quickly,” Mark Hubble, a Citizen Potawatomi Nation member who started working full-time as Meskwaki’s first active CEO in February 2015, told KCRG.

But those big businesses—like the new Big River Trading Company warehouse-facility under construction behind Meskwaki Travel Plaza along Highway 30 in Tama, Iowa—are just an avenue to help Meskwaki support the small business economy.

Meskwaki, Inc.’s ultimate goal is to create economic viability for future generations by developing partnerships for tribal members to own small businesses. “We want to partner with them to provide overhead and support, provide training, and help guide them for funding and assist in setting up any needed wholesale networks,” Hubble said. “To ensure long-term success, we want to provide assistance to the entire aspect of small businesses, yet we want them to be the primary owners and key decision makers of their own business. My hope and goal for each business is that they can be passed from generation to generation.”

When the members are set up for success, there’s a strategic and direct advantage, Meskwaki’s press release states. The tribe is the largest employer in Tama County and as its companies continue to grow and diversify, more high-valued jobs are retained locally. “Our goal is to keep bridging partnerships. As we add our breadth of product, I expect that we will see our products in all 50 states,” Hubble said.

Courtesy Meskwaki, Inc. The warehouse-facility behind Meskwaki Travel Plaza will package and distribute tobacco products, including Renards brand cigarettes and cigars, bagged tobacco, and pharmaceutical-grade eJuice vapor products. Construction is slated for completion this fall.

Beyond the aforementioned warehouse, Meskwaki’s other major projects underway are Woodlands Construction Division, a 52-unit housing project in Marshalltown, and potential distribution of Cattail Creek brand premium coffee and Meskwaki Warrior brand barbecue sauces. And in addition to Meskwaki Travel Plaza, Meskwaki’s family of tribal companies currently includes Woodlands Construction Company, Renards Tobacco, Fox Professional Services Inc., Red Earth Real Estate Holdings, Meskwaki Fuels Company, and Red Earth Gardens. The tribe’s Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel, it’s primary economic engine, and Pinnacle Bank, are not part of Meskwaki, Inc. “Tribes that are completely reliant on casino revenues often face challenges,” Hubble said. Meskwaki, Inc., is dedicated to helping tribal entrepreneurs create sustainable businesses.