“We want to be the event company for Indian country—we do business here because that’s who we are,” says Jason Coochwytewa, Isleta Pueblo/Hopi, president of Phoenix, Arizona-based Red Note, Inc. "Red Note seemed like a great name combination—'Red' being symbolic of blood—giving life to—and 'Note' coming from my love for traditional Hopi music."
Red Note, Inc. is a full-service events, marketing and public relations agency that has produced and co-produced numerous projects and shows. Coochwytewa brings a broad set of skills from executive positions held in Indian gaming, as well as in the public relations, marketing and event planning sectors.
The seasoned professional gleaned his business and marketing skills working for the Pueblo of Isleta in 2000-2001, lured there by his grandfather who served on the Isleta Tribal Council. There he helped the tribe transition from tent bingo halls to brick-and-mortar casino facilities, which opened in spring 2001. In the process, he gained experience in diverse areas, like working with a public relations firm and booking large acts.
“That’s really when the bug hit me,” he says of his decision to go independent. “My parents wisely advised me: If you’re willing to work 60 hours a week for someone else, why not do it for yourself?”
The entrepreneur had rubbed elbows with many Native movers and shakers in his early career days, one being Deana Jackson, Navajo, who boasts nearly three decades of professional experience in media, marketing and management. Jackson joined the firm in 2008, after serving as the public relations consultant for Ernie Stevens, Jr., chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association. Plans are underway for Jackson to become a partner/owner this fall.
“We realized a similar work ethic and the same vision and goals of working in Indian country and promoting it,” Coochwytewa says. “We forged a friendship before we started to do business together, and you get an energy off that.”
"We have a great balance," Jackson adds, "and our common bond is that, first and foremost, we bring excellence to the clients we serve. There are no lines drawn because we work as a team."
Some of Red Note's major milestones include the VIP party at the 2008 Native American Village at Super Bowl XLII, the Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI) “Chasing the Sun” 10K & Health Fair, and The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s Reservation Economic Summit (RES Vegas) for 2011 and 2012, until the NCAIED created an in-house events staff.
“We’re all over the map,” Coochwytewa says proudly. “We know how to do it all. Our mindset is that we’re good at what we do, so you can put us up there with the best-of-the-best."
The Red Note owner adds, "In our two years, we helped break RES attendance and fundraising records."
Previous clients attest to the firm’s level of performance. "Red Note brings commitment, passion, expertise, and professional to their craft," says Susan Masten, founder of Women Empowering Women in Indian Nations (WEWIN).
"I have watched [the Red Note team] create many spectacular and successful events and look forward to them coordinating our Expo event this fall," says Valarie Spicer, executive director of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association.
For Red Note, client requests run the gamut, as do costs—from several thousand dollars to $2 million event budgets for the Super Bowl XLII in Phoenix. “While volume fluctuates based on a changing economy, we are a high six-figure company,” Coochwytewa says.
Interestingly, when the company launched eight years ago, “We were 90 percent non-Native, and now we’ve flipped to 9 out of 10 clients coming from Indian country. We’ve found our niche.”
That niche market works in several ways, not only firming the company base and generating livable incomes for the hard-working pair, but giving them a platform to advance the issues of Native economic independence while acting as a subtle classroom that teaches indigenous culture and tradition to the outside world.
“Our culture and tradition spill into our non-Native work because that foundation is solid for us. When we get hired, even if there’s not a Native element involved, there will still be a Native component because of the passion behind what Deana and I do,” Coochwytewa says.
“We want to lead, guide and support our Native and tribal enterprises and entrepreneurs. We want to be a catalyst that helps them grow. With both of us being Native, and both having traditional respect, we reflect a lot about those issues before we do our events. We don’t want to be part of a dog and pony show, we want our events to be about cultural education and keeping our culture close to heart.”
Businesses that don’t innovate tend to stagnate and neither partner plans on that happening.
“Beyond event promotion and our other services,” he says, “We’re talking about expanding into the supply arena. The majority of our events end up renting items and those companies may not do business the way we do, so we’re moving in the direction of covering both the front- and back-end of events coordination.”