Meet the people behind Skoden Ventures ~ the world’s first venture fund led by Indigenous, Black, Brown, and women creative entrepreneurs.
In 2012, At the age of 20, Kelly Holmes (Mnicoujou Lakota) founded the world’s first and now longest-running Indigenous fashion magazine.
Originally from the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, Kelly observed the lack of culturally specific media and intuitively understood the market opportunity to create what would become Native Max New Media, an award-winning, global multimedia brand that features the fashion, culture, and lifestyle of Indigenous people across Turtle Island and beyond.
Today Native Max is beloved by thousands of Gen Z and Millennial creators and consumers, recognized as a fashion-forward platform promoting self-esteem, self-respect, and pride in Native communities.
Having overcome myriad hurdles to build a global media brand from scratch — without outside investment — Kelly has co-founded Skoden Ventures to capitalize and accelerate the success of founders following in her foot steps.
With business partner Alice Loy. Skoden Ventures is the first Native female-founded boutique venture fund that focuses on supporting very early stage start-up ventures with Indigenous, Black, Brown and female founders. Kelly utilizes her significant personal experience and long expertise in start-ups to help disrupt the traditional VC model, helping make capital accessible to historically-excluded communities.
Sharing her wealth of knowledge and entrepreneurialism, Kelly is the Lead Faculty of Creatives Indigenous, an entrepreneur program that takes Indigenous creative entrepreneurs from the starting line to start-up status and beyond through an array of programs, education, resources and more.
Kelly is also the founder of Native Fashion in the City, a global network and platform committed to strengthening the impact and influence of Indigenous Fashion around the world by supporting the next generation of Indigenous fashion talents.
Kelly is hiring a Managing Editor to take the reins of Native Max New Media in 2024.
Alice Loy is widely recognized as a driving force behind the global creative economy movement. In 2013 she built and launched the Creative Startups Accelerator, the world’s first startup accelerator for creative entrepreneurs. Today the suite of programs counts over 650 alumni companies on 4 continents. Collectively, these companies have raised more than $250 million in venture financing and created over 2,500 new jobs.
Through working with hundreds of creative companies, Alice has honed her ability to spot entrepreneurial talent and drive. She combines deep analytical skills, a natural affinity with founders, and a robust understanding of the entrepreneurial process to identify outlier temas with the potential to redefine categories and construct entire new markets.
Alice is particularly interested in investing in and growing companies led by women and underestimated entrepreneurs. Following her thesis that these undervalued companies create out-sized value, Creative Startups has been the first investor in companies such as Meow Wolf, Embodied Labs, and Native Realities.
Alice is a frequent speaker at startup events globally. She is co-author of the groundbreaking book, Creative Economy Entrepreneurs: From Startup to Success. She has published myriad workbooks for creative entrepreneurs, has been a Contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine, and has been featured on numerous podcasts and blogs.
Alice speaks Spanish fluently, having lived in Spain, Mexico, and Costa Rica to earn her Bachelors degree in Cultural Ecology. She holds both a Masters in Business and a PhD from the University of New Mexico. Her doctoral research focused on the networking strategies employed by impact entrepreneurs. Her inquiry stemmed from her first job experiences as a health worker (promotora) with migrant farmworkers. Compelled by the social justice gains made by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, Alice sought to understand how social movements are led by entrepreneurial thinkers, builders, leaders.
In 2006 Alice was inducted into the UNM Anderson Schools of Management Young Alumni Hall of Fame. In 2009 she was awarded the 2009 Sarah Belle Brown Award for Community Service to New Mexico. In 2015 she was honored with the New Mexico Impact Investing Humanitarian Award. And in 2019, Alice became the only UNM alum to be again inducted into the UNM Anderson Schools of Management Hall of Fame – this time as a seasoned Alumni. Alice lives in Santa Fe with her family.
Dean Newton has invested in over 65 companies and manages Relevance Ventures, the largest Native-led venture fund based in the USA. Relevance Ventures focuses on comprehensive social, environmental and individual wellness.
The mission of Relevance is to create an investment paradigm where lifelong relationships with entrepreneurs and investors are forged by a relentless pursuit of disruptive people, ideas, and technologies anchored by an unwavering commitment to harmony, transparency, integrity, and the human condition. Dean Newton is an Investment Manager, and Chief Legal Officer/Secretary and GP of Relevance Ventures, based in Nashville, Tennessee. Prior to joining Relevance Ventures, Dean served as AGC for Blackboard Inc., with responsibility for its Blackboard Campus Enablement (formerly Transact) Fintech and security business units as well as its Community Engagement SaaS platforms. Dean is a member of the Patawomeck Indian Tribe, and serves on the Boards of a number of companies and organizations. He is co-founder of the Native American Venture Capital Association, a nonprofit organization advocating for greater access to capital and resources for tribal entrepreneurs.
Dr. Christopher Brooks is the proud son of a Nigerian- Jamaican mother and an American father. With a reputation as a results-oriented leader, Chris enjoyed a diverse 25-year career serving as an executive, educator, and change agent.
He is a co-founder and Managing Partner at Brown Venture Group, a Venture Studio focused on BIPOC Technology entrepreneurs and the companies they start: investing in Brown Success. He is also a Founding Partner of Firehouse Commons, a business incubation space in South Minneapolis.
A serial tech entrepreneur, Trevor Wolfe has started five businesses and sold two. In 2020 his company, BigTeam, was acquired by Mailchimp where Trevor now leads Mailchimp’s product development and innovation team.
Trevor “accidentally” started Zero Proof in 2021; the company is now the nation’s largest distributor of alcoholic-free adult beverages. Trevor is an active angel investor in tech and creative companies.
Dr. Lee Francis 4 (Laguna Pueblo) is the Executive Director of Native Realities, dedicated to unleashing the Indigenous imagination through popular culture, including comic books, graphic novels, games, toys, and collectibles. Established in 2015, the company has published the largest assortment of Indigenous-centric comic books in the world.
Lee received his Ph.D. in Education from Texas State University with a focus on Indigenous education systems and Indigenous leadership. As an evaluator, Dr. Francis specializes in Indigenous evaluation methods, advising national Native/Indigenous organizations to conduct system and program evaluations.
Anthony was an early employee of Praetorian, worked for several years with Electronic Arts (EA) and now leads a cyber security engineering team with AirBnB. He holds both a Bachelor’s and Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. Anthony and his wife live near his ancestral homelands on the Navajo Nation.
As a professional touring artist, Raashan has built his brand and career through partnerships and a deep understanding of the business of his craft. As an entrepreneur, Raashan has leveraged his expertise to support startups across a range of industries. He is a skilled dealmaker and has an extensive network of contacts that he draws upon to source and evaluate investment opportunities. Raashan is also adept at guiding startups through the various stages of growth, from company formation to strategic alliances.
In addition to his work as an entrepreneur and investor, Raashan is the Executive Director of Vital Spaces, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering local, emerging, and BIPOC artists through support and resources. He is also a highly respected member of the arts community, serving as an Arts Commissioner for the city of Santa Fe, a founding member of Earthseed Black Arts Alliance, and a member of the advisory board for the National Parks Arts Foundation.
Ray Leach is the founding CEO of JumpStart Inc. an Ohio-based non-profit venture development organization with a national best-in-class reputation for its innovative economic development models and its ability to leverage its experience and expertise across the U.S.
In 2023 Ray departed JumpStart to launch The Ohio Fund, a $500 million impact fund serving Ohio.
Ray is considered a national thought and practice leader at the intersection of public, private, and philanthropic partnerships accelerating private-sector investment capital, job creation, and increasing inclusive economic outcomes in neighborhoods, cities, states, and regions.
Ray was a Sloan Fellow and a graduate of the MIT Sloan School of Management and the University of Akron. He began his career at IBM and went on to co-found four startups. Ray was a founding member of the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) and currently serves on the for-profit boards of Axuall, Smithers, and Signet LLC.
Vatsal has mentored dozens of startups and is proficient in guiding founders as they develop management dashboards, establish internal controls, and scale up financial and accounting systems. Vatsal Shah has worked with Creative Startups since 2017, building the infrastructure of the organization’s accounting and financial systems. He has provided leadership in monitoring all facets of budgeting, forecasting, financial analysis including management of federal grants.
Vatsal is a Chartered Accountant and holds an MBA in Finance from the University of New Mexico. He is skilled in all areas of accounting and financial analysis and management. Over the past 15 years Vatsal as worked as an internal auditor for a large university, as CFO for a startup that raised $4 million in financing, and as an analyst and due diligence officer for an inventory-based lending firm with offices in New York and Delhi.
A front end web developer with a range of skills in data management and the integration of operational and office systems, Purva supports back office operations. Purva holds a Masters Degree in Business from the S. R. Luthra Institute of Management. Purva lives in Gujarat, India with her husband and two daughters.
Emily is a skilled marketing strategist, successfully designing creative projects to engage diverse audiences across platforms including social media, podcasts, print, and web. They are fluent in social media advertising and analytics and uses her skills as a poet to capture audience attention.
Emily holds a Bachelor of Science in Audio Engineering from Belmont University and a Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Emily’s literary awards for their own writing are too numerous to list, they are a published poet and have been recognized by the Academy of American Poets, Columbia Journal, Dream Pop Journal, and Quarterly West for their work.
Grace Benally is a proficient administrative assistant with a strong foundation in journalism and mass communications. She is a published journalist, having her work featured in Indian Country Today, AZ Luminaria, and also having experience in strategic communications.
With a Bachelor’s degree in this field, Grace brings a wealth of skills to the table, including expertise in social media content creation, website building, news story writing, and public relations. Grace’s background and skills enable the smooth operation and efficiency of Skoden Ventures’ administrative processes. Grace lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.
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