"He was just Regular Dave until he came here" is how Martin Jennings, described Dave Anderson’s first endeavor at running a BBQ restaurant to me this week. Jennings is Director of Development of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians, which gave (now Famous) Dave a shot at their Grand Casino in Hinckley, MN. “He set up a circus tent and put picnic tables up and tested his idea for a BBQ place right here. It eventually led to Famous Dave’s BBQ Restaurants.” Today there are over 100 Dave’s Famous BBQs.
Dave is one of the 3,500 members of the Mille Lacs Band and I was intrigued with a new spirit of entrepreneurism that is bubbling up here. Jennings explained to me of how the Band’s Corporate Commission is reaching out to Band members, “We provide technical assistance; an equity like loan program; and micro, macro and expansion loans. We are reaching down to the high school and grade school level with entrepreneurial training. This summer we are setting up a business camp for the kids.”
He told me of other entrepreneurial successes from the Band. “Bob Dorr is doing government security work and has over 1000 employees. We’ve got 6 to 9 who are building contractors. There is a hair salon, a gallery, coffee shop, etc.”
I stopped by to talk with Carole Higgins who runs the hair salon. She told me, “In 1979 the tribe sent me thru beauty school and I started my business in my home. In the late 80s I moved to Las Vegas to work at Ballys and Circus-Circus, so that I could learn some things when the casino opened here. I’ve had my shop with several employees in the casino here since I opened in 1998.”
Entrepreneurism isn’t overwhelmingly common here yet. There aren’t any second or third generation entrepreneurs who can pass down successful hints on the subject. But with Jennings and the Band pushing and winning examples like Dave Anderson, Bob Dorr, Carole Higgins and others it is a movement that will grow. And, it will transform Hinckley and other communities.