Community Inspires Indigenous Entrepreneur

Community Inspires Indigenous Entrepreneur

Meet Deanna Wohlgemuth, owner and creative mind behind Rock On Jewelry and Tin Cantina, LLC in Portland! Thanks to the Oregon IDA Initiative and NAYA’s Micro-Enterprise classes, Deanna began her own successful business making and selling incredible jewelry from salvaged materials, and tending bar from her vintage trailer at events. Our Micro-Enterprise classes receive generous support from Prosper Portland, and the Regional Arts & Culture Council. Read more about Deanna’s transformation from life in the corporate world to becoming a small business owner in the story below, written by Derrick Taruc from Neighborhood Partnerships and originally posted on the Oregon IDA Initiative story map.

A Focus on Meaning

Deanna Wohlgemuth was working in the corporate world but missing a sense of community, as well as time with her two children.

She wanted to put her energy into something that had more meaning for her, and wondered if she could make a viable business using her talent for making jewelry from salvaged materials.

To help her with her goal, Deanna, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, started the microenterprise course at Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) in 2010, and enrolled in an IDA, starting the process that would result in her very own business, Rock On Jewelry.

Through the course, she found coaching in writing her business plan, and other resources like Lewis and Clark University’s Small Business Legal Clinic.

“The IDA gave me the confidence to explore an area of growth that I wouldn’t be able to do on my own,” says Deanna. “[Without the support,] it would have taken me so long to learn some of these lessons. It might have put me under. The IDA allowed me to take more risks to determine the best direction for the business.”

With Rock On Jewelry launched, Deanna continued to look for ways to leverage her resources. Her vintage airstream trailer that she used to travel to jewelry shows seemed underutilized. Inspired after using the trailer at a friend’s wedding, she started Tin Cantina, LLC, a mobile bartending service.

“The IDA gave me the confidence to explore an area of growth that I wouldn’t be able to do on my own,” Deanna says.

Seven years after starting her IDA, Deanna’s children are now grown and her son has taken the NAYA course in hopes of starting his own business.

“Supporting small business feeds the economy,” notes Deanna. “Local people hire me to provide bar service for their parties. I buy products for my events from local businesses and I’m helping support my household. I’m connecting person to person with my community.”