Who prepared the information on this website?
This resource was created by Navajo-owned organizations in response to feedback from Navajo business owners and entrepreneurs who wanted clarity on the process to setting up a business on the Navajo Nation. The information was researched by Catapult Design with support from Western RBDO and visualized by DGTL.NVJO. We created this resource because we hoped that access to this information would help address common questions about starting a business on the Navajo Nation and eventually lead to more Navajo-owned businesses operating on the reservation. We will continue to edit and expand on Build Navajo through 2017. If you would like to keep up-to-date on the site or have a question to submit, please use the form in the footer at the bottom of this page.
What type of business should I start?
The legal identity of your business – a Limited Liability Company, a C-Corp, etc. – depends on the nature of your business and your vision. Generally, a sole-proprietorship is the most simple and most common way to operate a business. Visit the Legal Identities page to learn more about the differences, pros and cons of differences identities for your business.
Is there any disadvantage to registering with the Navajo Nation vs. a US State?
No, there is no disadvantage. However, if you choose to register a new business with the Navajo Nation as a domestic-based business (meaning you are not registered in a US State), you are advised to still register your business name with the US State you live in. This will help if and when you apply for a business loan at a bank.
What’s the difference between registration and certification?
Registering your business is not optional whereas certification is optional. When you register your business, you are establishing your business presence in the eyes of local and State governance. Certification, on the other hand, is a process you go through in order to qualify your business to various institutions. There are many types of business certification. On this website, we only cover Navajo Preference Certification.
Do I need to hire a lawyer to prepare my documents or do my taxes?
Legal council is not a requirement to complete the documents for registration or Navajo Preference certification. If you have questions about completing the forms, you can get advice from legal council or your local RBDO. Similarly, an accountant is not required to file your tax forms on the Navajo Nation.
Are the processes the same for Non-Navajos?
The forms are the same regardless of race. However, eligibility for Navajo Preference Certification is limited to Navajo owned companies. Similarly, a registered agent with an address on the Navajo Nation is required to register any business on the Navajo Nation.
How do I find other Navajo businesses?
There is a growing community and peer network of entrepreneurs on the Navajo Nation and surrounding tribes. The Dineh Chamber of Commerce is a community of support for Navajo business owners; the Navajo Tech Innovation Center provides affordable office space and incubation; the Native American Business Incubator Network provides virtual incubation services for Navajo changemakers.
Why should I register my business on the Navajo Nation?
Any operating business where transactions are made should be registered. However, a large percentage of the economy on the Navajo Nation consists of un-registered businesses, also knows as the “informal economy.” In order to apply for a business loan at a bank to grow your business, you will need to register in order to show the bank that you have a legitimate business. In that regard, if you plan to grow your business and hire people to help you with your operations, you should register in order to legitimize your business.
How long does it take?
From the time you submit your forms to Navajo Tax Commission and/or Navajo Business Regulatory, you should receive confirmation of registration within a few weeks. To get a list of the forms you need to submit, please visit the Business Registration page.
Do I have to re-apply for registration every year or do it just once?
Yes, you will need to submit a form annually confirming that your business is still in operation. You will not, however, need to re-apply from scratch.
NAVAJO PREFERENCE CERTIFICATION
Do I need to be based on the Navajo Nation in order to be eligible for Navajo Preference Certification?
No, you do not need to be based on the Navajo Reservation in order to be eligible for Navajo Preference Certification. To understand eligibility, please visit the Navajo Preference Certification page.
How long does Navajo Preference Certification take?
Approximately one month from when you submit your application. However, there are longer wait times during the holidays.
BUSINESS SITE LEASE
Do I need a BSL for my B&B?
Visit your local RBDO to consult on B&Bs. Some B&Bs are required to convert their HSL (Home Site Lease) to a BSL. But this will vary dependent on your business.
If I apply for a BSL, will I get one?
It’s not a guarantee that you will receive your BSL if you apply for one. However, a representative at the Tuba City RBDO estimates that 90% of people who apply for a BSL get it.
How long does it take to get a BSL?
Visit the Business Site Lease page to understand the steps you go through to apply for a BSL. The time required for each step varies. For example, you will need a Chapter Resolution, which can go slowly or quickly depending on how busy your local Chapter is. The Navajo Nation government estimates that completing all of the steps can take less than one year. However, in interviewing entrepreneurs for this website, we encountered some who waited more than one year.
Where do I go for more information on cost, survey vendors, and so on?
The cost required to get a BSL varies based on the location you have in mind for your business. For example, existing sites may not require new assessments but a brand new site will have to go through every step in the process. Your local RBDO is the government entity responsible for issuing BSLs. Visit your RBDO to learn about existing available sites as well as discuss the costs associated with a new site. Your RBDO will likely manage assessment vendors for you and in some cases, help cover costs.