Stephine Poston expresses joy and gratitude that she “hit the career jackpot. I get to get up every day and do this incredible work that’s helpful to people,” says the founder of Poston & Associates, LLC, based on the Pueblo of Sandia Reservation, in Bernalillo, New Mexico, just outside Albuquerque.
Prior to founding Poston & Associates, Poston worked for the federal government for eight years, and next as a public relations analyst for her tribe, Pueblo of Sandia, for 11 years. “That’s where I learned a lot about health, education, the environment, sacred site protection, economic development and water rights,” she says.
Poston then transitioned from coaching businesses to launching Poston & Associates (P&A). “Word of mouth spread quickly,” says Poston, P&A president and CEO. “People started calling me to work on Get Out the Vote, to organize events, to write their press releases.”
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A Native American-, woman-owned, full service communications firm, P&A specializes in communication services and public relations for Native American entities. Poston handles media relations; event and meeting planning; messaging marketing and branding; strategic planning and facilitation; film and video production; and fundraising development.
Poston recently received the 2017 Native Woman Business Owner of the Year recognition from the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. She will accept the award this week at the National Reservation Economic Summit (RES), March 13-16. The annual networking event and tradeshow attracts more than 4,000 attendees. At RES, the National Center will recognize several Native business leaders and those who have made significant contributions to advancing economic development in Indian country. Winners span businesses large and small, and award categories include tribal leadership, gaming, women-owned business, volunteers, and public advocacy.
“Stephine Poston has a strong track record of working for and on behalf of Native American businesses, and is a very deserving recipient of the Native Woman Business Owner of the Year Award,” said Chris James, the National Center’s President and CEO. “She sets an example for other business leaders – and particularly women – to follow. We are very pleased to be able to honor her with this award.”
Poston has driven highly effective communication campaigns for a variety of Tribal customers including the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department, National Indian Gaming Association, Pueblo of Sandia, American Indian Graduate Center, Americans for Indian Opportunity and Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission, among others.
Poston also co-wrote the recently released Indigenous Women Entrepreneurs in New Mexico: Surpassing Barriers and Stereotypes. Edited by the University of New Mexico Anderson School of Management, the book is available for download on Kindle. “It is clear from the every chapter that our women indigenous entrepreneurs were able to develop their businesses integrating their indigenous values and traditions, but at the same time embracing modern managerial perspectives,” UNM editors Ms. Jaye Francis and Dr. Raul Gouvea state.
Among her numerous achievements, Poston counts working with the Pueblo of Santa Clara for the Get Out the Vote initiative as one of her most rewarding projects. “For the primary they had about 30 percent voter turnout. Between the primary election and general election, we registered about 170 voters at the Pueblo. They had a nearly 70 percent voter turnout in the general election. I was so proud of them,” Poston says.
Recently, Poston had the opportunity to watch Michelle Obama deliver a commencement speech to the Santa Fe Indian School in May 2016, as part of her professional relationship with long-term client the American Indian Graduate Center (AIGC), a national organization that provides scholarships for American Indian and Alaska Native graduate and undergraduate students.
“So often we hear about the challenges in Indian country. I get to showcase and celebrate the successes in Indian country,” Poston says. “As a PR and marketing person, I get the privilege of telling those great stories.”
Poston additionally served as an ambassador for Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO), a non-profit organization and catalyst for Native initiatives, founded by LaDonna Harris (Comanche) and a cohort of fellow Native activists in 1970. Poston helped organize a screening of the documentary Indian 101 at the Time Warner building in New York last summer. The film profiles Harris, who led an extensive life of Native political and social activism.
“Because of my cultural competency and experience with my tribe, I can relate to and help tribes and Native organizations develop long-term strategies that make sense. I’ve been where they’re at,” says Poston, emphasizing her “willingness to meet them where they’re at and really hear them out — what they’re trying to accomplish with their marketing materials and communication strategy. I feel really fortunate to be a part of that.”
Personally, Poston is passionate about protecting and empowering Indian country, supporting the “Water is Life” movement, Indigenous women’s rights, and entrepreneurship as a primary means for capacity building in Indian country.
Poston advises aspiring entrepreneurs to ask for guidance and mentorship. “There is no need to reinvent the wheel. If you see somebody doing something you like, go talk to them about that. People are more than willing to share information with you,” she says.
Poston was born and raised at Pueblo of Sandia, among a big family including two older brothers and one older sister. Her grandparents had 14 children. “I was really fortunate to be raised with a loving family. Most of us live at the Pueblo still,” Poston says. “My mom was very influential and supportive of this odd child of hers – the first child to complete college in my family, and the first one to own a business.”
Poston has two sons, Marcus, 21, and Jon, 16. “Family is always at the core of what we do,” she says.
Learn more about Poston and Associates at www.postonllc.com.