If you live anywhere but in the southwest US, you may not know how remote and desolate are the Navajo lands. Most homes have no electricity or indoor plumbing and access is limited to rough tracks made by the family pick-up truck. There have been no cell phone towers, there are no land lines. Shopping is usually a several-hour drive away.
The Navajo Nation (Diné Bikéyah in the Navajo language) is a semi-autonomous Native American homeland covering about 26,000 square miles (67,339 square kilometers, 17 million acres), occupying all of northeastern Arizona, the southeastern portion of Utah, and northwestern New Mexico. It is the largest land area assigned primarily to a Native American jurisdiction within the United States.
Today’s Albuquerque Journal ran this story about a wonderful project that has been many years in the planning and execution. Can you imagine, if you lived many miles from medical help, with only rugged, rocky paths to services, how ecstatic you would be to know that you are able to make a phone call? That a LifeGuard helicopter is truly only an hour away? The Sacred Wind project is one that deserved this award for innovation, perseverance, and unbelievable value to those it serves.
Sacred Wind Wins ‘Shine a Light’ Contest
Copyright 2009 Albuquerque Journal–> By Michael Hartranft
Journal Staff Writer
New Mexico’s Sacred Wind Communications has been voted the most inspiring small business in America.
The company, which provides communications services to the Navajo Nation, is the winner of the NBC Universal and American Express “Shine a Light” contest, topping 4,000 nominations from across the country, the sponsors announced Monday.
It was one of three finalists for which the public cast votes online between Sept. 24 and Oct. 16.
Sacred Wind will receive $50,000 in grant money and $50,000 in marketing support from American Express. In addition, the company and founder John Badal will be featured in an upcoming show of MSNBC’s “Your Business,” which is hosted by small-business expert JJ Ramberg. The company also won a $10,000 grant for being named a finalist.
“All of us at Sacred Wind are absolutely thrilled at this honor being designated the most inspiring small business in America, and humbled at the attention and the honor itself,” Badal told the Journal in a phone interview Monday. “We’re just a little phone company with a big mission. I hope we inspire other companies to connect to the communities they serve the way we have done.”
Shine a Light is intended to showcase inspirational small businesses and the role they play in driving the economy.
Founded in 2006, Sacred Wind is building a communications network to serve Navajo people in New Mexico, reaching current customers and more than 6,000 homes still without access to phone service, as well as providing jobs in an area of very high unemployment.
Badal said the company has grown from six people three years ago to 40. It has administrative headquarters in Albuquerque and operational headquarters in Yatahey, about 7 miles north of Gallup.
The other two Shine a Light finalists, organic baby-food maker HAPPYBABY of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Beacon Paint and Hardware of New York, also received $10,000 grants.
“The other two finalists should be applauded for the work they do in their communities as well,” Badal said. “What is most touching for me is to consider the American public at large voted for us for what we do in an area of the nation that has long been ignored.”