The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) formed Kituwah in 2019 to acquire businesses to help diversify revenue beyond reservation-based gaming.
To date, Kituwah, LLC has focused on developing revenue streams for the Tribe through property development, entertainment and hospitality, and professional services.
Mark Hubble (Citizen Potawatomi Nation) leads Kituwah as its CEO. This isn’t the first time he’s focused on diversifying a Tribal economy beyond gaming. Hubble was part of the startup team at Ho-Chunk, Inc.
A graduate of Yale Law School, Hubble met Lance Morgan, the visionary behind Ho-Chunk, at a law firm, before they segued to lead the economic development arm of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska in the early 90s.
Now, Hubble is focused on these four priorities to support the economy of the EBCI in North Carolina.
1) Systems & Communication
Because Kituwah is a startup, Hubble’s first year as CEO initially consisted of covering the most basic items.
Financial policies had to be written. Bank account opened. Investment policies needed writing.
And most of all, Kituwah needed to engage in constant communication with the Tribe’s elected representatives to keep them abreast of Kituwah’s operations and potential investments.
2) Revenue Generation
Early on, Kituwah was committed to proving to the Tribe that it would be smart with Tribal money — “and get profitable as quickly as possible, consistent with their needs,” Hubble said.
Things picked up speed quickly.
“We are routinely screening three to five properties at any one time, of which we expect no more than one to pass the negotiation and due diligence stages. As these properties mature, we will fold into real estate funds, sell them to investors, and retain the management rights,” Hubble shared with Native Business.
In late 2019, Kituwah was growing at a 300 percent revenue rate. “We are closing on various properties at a fast pace,” Hubble said.
3) Long-term Sustainability
After an immediate focus on turning a profit came grounding through a longer-term approach.
“We balance the projects that are going to take a little longer to get profitable with projects that will be profitable very quickly,” Hubble said.
Hubble pointed to the strategy of a successful, multi-billion-dollar investor: “I like Warren Buffett’s philosophies in general — seek value and think long term,” Hubble says.
4) Team Building
One thing that makes Kituwah successful is the company is “extremely collaborative. I actively seek input from those I trust, and because we are careful on the front-end of the recruitment and onboarding process, it allows trust to build within the organization. I end up relying heavily on the Board and our employees,” Hubble said.
The Board actually includes Morgan. In a way, Hubble’s career has come full circle. “What we’re trying to do is recreate a lot of the things that have been successful for Ho-Chunk,” Hubble acknowledged.
When it comes to hiring, Hubble’s philosophy is: “Get the right people in the right positions and let them thrive.”
Hubble also looks for team players: “We don’t like big egos. We just want good-hearted people who care for the Tribe as a whole. We really look for sharp analytical and problem-solving skills.”