Robyn Alexander-Lei, St. Labre’s Home Economics teacher for many years, is always looking for new challenges for the students that will intrigue them and also assist them as they approach adulthood and the workplace. Last year, her class partnered with One Montana, a foundation designed to instill the entrepreneurial spirit in high school kids. St. Labre affiliated with Billings West High School in a joint marketing/ manufacturing endeavor. According to Ms. Alexander-Lei, the concept seemed promising, but, as she noted, “Kids come and go at both schools, either moving or graduating. We lost some of our previously involved students.”
Not to worry! She knew that the venture had spawned a good deal of interest and decided to move forward with Braves Ink, described in its mission statement as, “Bringing custom style and design to team and community apparel. Our specialty is to provide quality apparel and customer service. Braves Ink will be your final stop for custom apparel.”
Furthermore, Braves Ink is being touted as, “founded, owned and operated by indigenous students at St. Labre Indian Catholic School.” With three seniors, two juniors and one sophomore in the current class, continuity of the program is a near certainty. And as the class expands and more students become involved, continuity should not be a worry going forward.
The class has also outlined a master calendar that describes the total addressable market for its products: Year one: St. Labre and local powwows. Year two: The entire Northern Cheyenne Nation. Year Three: The Crow Nation.
Furthermore, as would be true in any company, the students have specific roles, which include graphic designers, marketing specialists, sales managers and a finance manager.
Ambitious, yes. Doable, absolutely. Ms. Alexander-Lei describes her cohort this way: “Braves Ink is comprised of a young, hip, active group of individuals who are involved in the school and community and who know what peers want and expect from custom apparel.”
We’ll feature some of the students’ creations in a future edition of the Morning Star for your perusal. Who knows? Maybe the market will expand well beyond the Northern Cheyenne and Crow Nations as many of you get hip with Braves Ink apparel.