Strong businesses and strong business owners help communities grow stronger, building bridges and breaking down walls. These women have spoken up, created powerful goals, amazing products, and are working to make their small businesses successful, build families, and build communities. TPMOCS is receiving a grant from Cotton Babies for $1500 to help in the growth of her business.
Meet Maria Running Fisher Jones!
Business Name: TPMOCS
Product: Authentic moccasins. Each pair is cut, sewn, sinewed and branded by Native American artisans. Moccasins are handcrafted every step of the way to ensure quality. Custom moccasins available, too.
Owner: Maria Running Fisher Jones
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
I was raised by a single mother on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Northwestern Montana, a community struggling with a 69% unemployment rate. After my mother moved my brothers and me from the reservation to a nearby town, she continued to emphasize the significance of our history, culture and necessity to give back to our community. I have always maintained a love for moccasins and have been fortunate to wear beautifully handcrafted Native American moccasins throughout my life. Through this love and commitment to my community, TPMOCS was born.
What is your company’s mission?
TPMOCS’ mission is to give back tribe by tribe. With each purchase, we are able to take action to address poverty in Native American communities. Our goals are simple. One, employ Native Americans to handcraft each pair of moccasins. Two, use a portion of the profits to purchase necessities for underprivileged children living on remote reservations. And three, keep our traditions alive.
How did you get started?
The estimated poverty rate of Native Americans living on reservations is nearly double the national average and the highest in the United States. While these statistics alone are startling, a closer look at unemployment rates on rural reservations are even more frightening. By way of example, the Blackfeet Indian Reservation is plagued with a 69% unemployment rate. The Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota – 85%. These are just a few examples of the grinding poverty on some of America’s Indian reservations, many of which resemble nothing so much as small third-world countries in the middle of the wealthiest nation on earth. Contrary to popular belief, the overwhelming majority of Native American tribes are not wealthy by virtue of government subsidies or gaming privileges. For many tribes, remotely placed homes and communities simply hinder economic growth. I know these statistics because I was raised on one of the poorest reservations in this country. I’ve lived through and witnessed the effects of poverty in my very own community. From my life experiences, the TPMOCS concept was born and evolved through the desire to persevere and give back. My call to action came to fruition a few years ago while visiting my family on the reservation during North American Indian Days. I drove through town and saw that not much had changed since I was a child. It is still very stricken with poverty and I thought, “what can I do to help this community, my community?” I realized that even with the bevy of disheartening statistics, there are things numbers cannot quantify and that’s the strength and resilience of Native people.
What makes your product unique?
There are several moccasin companies in the market, but when you take a closer look at the details, it becomes readily apparent that TPMOCS stands out for a variety of reasons. First, TPMOCS is one of the few moccasin companies that employ Native American artisans. However, of those, TPMOCS is the only company committed to bringing sustainable employment to underserved Native American communities. Second, TPMOCS is the only company producing children’s moccasins that actually gives back to the community. With each item sold, TPMOCS earmarks a portion of its profits to purchase necessities for Native American children living in poverty-stricken communities. Third, TPMOCS’ moccasin pattern is truly unique. The bulk of children’s moccasin companies utilize the exact same pattern with simply a variation of color. TPMOCS’ pattern was created by Native Americans and is exclusive to TPMOCS. Frankly put, you won’t find it anywhere else. And last but not least, the moccasins are authentic and made with the utmost quality. Each pair is sewn, sinewed and branded by Native American artisans to ensure quality from start to finish.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by creating opportunities in my community and giving back. I truly believe it takes a village to raise our next generation, but how can we do that if we are unable to be self-sufficient? TPMOCS is founded on the principle that everybody deserves an opportunity to succeed. We recognize that we are just a small part of the ecosystem in this greater plan but take great pride in doing what we can to make the world a better place.
How will this grant help in the growth of your business?
Our team plans to use the grant to purchase winter jackets for children on the Blackfeet reservation. The winters are very harsh in Montana and we’d like to help as many children as possible to stay warm. We’ll also use a portion of the grant to purchase a new sewing machine for an artisan. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity! We are truly grateful.